Chapter 6 ~ Journey to the East

 

 

 

 

As much as I hated to admit it, Ragashi (family name: None. He got kicked from his clan) was actually an authority in his field. He was extremely knowledgeable about exotic animals and plants, knew the reproductive cycles of most creatures, and more importantly, understood the why of said cycles. He even knew the best way to stimulate the birth of males or females depending on the species.

 

Being a druid, his healing spells were more about accelerating a creature’s own natural healing power, rather than summoning holy power that would turn into new flesh and bone, which actually could have a debilitating effect most of the time. Well, it was easy to understand that if you lost an arm and it was replaced with magic, it would be weak and possess pretty much no muscle mass, forcing you to go through a long recovery time. Primal magic on the other hand, caused the body to regrow said arm, and used your body’s ‘memory’ to cause bone and tissues to grow as close to the original as possible.

 

Of course, while miraculously fast, it was still not instantaneous. It would take several minutes to grow a new limb, and while minor things like a scratch would heal in moments, it still sapped the body of protein and other resources. Once again, it was genuinely regrowing, rather than replacing. Pretty much anyone from Earth would understand that the calcium, protein, fat and everything else would be drained from your own body, so it wasn’t something you could do often or comfortable, all the same.

 

Well, I had my doubts before looking at the ogres that were meant to make the core of my  personal guard, but they’re actually as smart as anyone else, though much too aggressive and territorial towards each other to cooperate properly, and thus have never managed to raise out of barbarism when left to themselves. Or to be clearer, their female matriarchs are much too territotial and aggressive towards each other, which I don’t really care about since we’re just taking the one female with us to act as Stella’s second in command.

 

As for their physical appearance: As befitting of giants (even if they’re the smallest of the species), the smallest one is 8” tall, their skin ranges from bright blue to bright red, and yet the thing you notice right away is that their heads are at the end of a forward leaning neck that is both twice as long as a human’s, and ridiculously muscular. Their heads make me thing of orangutans, with their predominent hair style being long braids, or shaven smooth.

 

By the way, Daai, the female, shaves her own hair, being on the more …obsessive side of the cleanliness scale. I’m not saying that they smell like roses. They smell like ogres, but its not a stench, just a strong scent.

 

“You want us to carry this much along?” – says Daai while looking a bit skeptical of the bulging food and supplies package

“Extra food, thick clothes for the mountain crossing, and large enough tents you don’t have to sleep under the stars, plus soap and other hygienic supplies.”

“Hm. Alright.”

 

Yup, nailed it on the soap. I suspect I could have made the list longer as long as it ended on soap.

 

“What are they gonna carry?” – the ogre matriarch points at the orcs with her thumb

 

The orcs by the way made me question what I thought an orc was. If I was a biologist, I may wonder if these ‘orcs’ weren’t just some sort of primitive human. Their bulging foreheads, prominent jaws and slightly dumb eyes made me think of neandethals, as I’d seen them in museums and documentals. If their skin wasn’t green, I would have been pretty sure they were just cavemen, really. By the way, we’re roughly taking half males and half females along the way, and I had to say they at least are smarter than they look like, if not by much.

 

“Would you trust them with the food?”

“No.”

“The tents?”

“No.”

“the soap?”

“No!”

 

That’s why they’re just carrying their own equipment, plus some tools. Don’t worry, I’m not favoring them, I just don’t trust them enough to hand anything important to them.

 

“Hmph… alright.”

 

Daai stands up (she was sitting so we could see eye to eye), and moves towards the ready-to-leave caravan.

 

“You could’ve just smacked her, couldn’t you? She would have respected your strenght.” – says Kalkah  once Daai is far enough away

 

Well, as I mentioned before, I do have what you’d call ‘demonic strenght,’ but…

 

“She wouldn’t respect me, she would fear me, there’s a difference. Besides, I won’t punish someone for bringing up valid concerns. I want to be the type of lord that actually listens to the advice of his advisers, you know? I’ll have Stella discipline her if I judge it neccessary. That’s called a chain of command.”

“Is that so?”

“It is.”

“Hmmm…”

 

Kalkah looks unconvinced. Well, up to a few weeks ago, I was what you’d call a big bully, after all, so I can’t blame her for it.

 

“Alright, we’re moving!” – I call out, and the group starts moving towards the portal outside the city.

 

We’ll teleport to the empire’s easternmost stronghold, and continue on foot from there. All in all, the portal should save us five months of travel, which once again reminds me of how different things are from my previous world.

 

The portal jump goes as well as you can expect from an everyday activity, and we all emerge outside of  Goldwhore Keep, so creatively named because Castus, one of my older brothers, enslaved the local settlements of golden elves in order to secure the region, and doubly named so after its sole export: Female elves.

 

Charming, my family.

 

And, of course we were expected, so the first thing I see when I come out of the portal is my brother with his guards behind him.

 

“Little Asmund, all grown up and leaving the nest.” – he greets me with a toothy smile

 

Is he smiling, or just showing me his teeth, though?

 

“Long time no see, brother Castus. How’s business?”

“Yes, it has been a long time. Business is good, good.”

“Alright, I have a small package and a letter for you from sister Dusk.”

 

Castus was quite close to Dusk before she was included in father’s harem, so his mood seems to greatly improve upon receiving the package and the letter. It’s like he’s almost really smiling, now.

 

“Well, it’s still early in the day, so we’ll be going now. I want to cover as much ground as possible before nightfall.”

“Yes, yes, have a safe trip and all that. Looking forth to having you be our meatshield from now on.”

 

Well, he’s not wrong. Since his border outpost will become just a regular outpost once we’re settled down at our destination, and it will be my turn to deal with hero wannabes from now on, too.

 

As we exit the keep, we pass by a number of elven females chained to each other on a short line, wearing hardwood stocks that keep their hands at the height of heads. To be honest, I understand that slavery is legal so long as they are criminals, but I don’t want to ask what crime Castus found them guilty of. Not paying proper tribute, failing to produce enough foodstocks, or guilty of being an elf. What constitutes a crime in each territory is pretty much up to the ruler to decide.

 

They look quite young, too. Not young enough to be children, but young enough that they’re only just beginning to bloom into womanhood. I could buy a few, but then what? I have no real use for them, other than as domestic staff, and I don’t even have a keep of my own just yet. At most, it would be just me just temporarily satisfying a phony sense of morality.

 

If you can’t help someone all the way to the end, better don’t to begin with. If I buy them, I’d have no official use for them other than sex toys… ah! No, I better not.

 

Anyway…

 

We make it out of Goldwhore Keep (that name, jeez), and right away find ourselves in the wilderness. Well, its not as if I expected brother Castus to build a settlement and a thriving town, but he should at least clear the terrain around his keep, for safety sake.

 

There’s no direction but east from here, so I send Ragashi ahead of us to act as guide and scout. Who’s better than a druid in the wilderness, after all? Its not as if he could get away from me, anyway, the collar won’t let him, and in fact, he’s forced to follow my instructions and come talk with me every two hours.

 

I was careful about the phrasing, so he can’t just look at me from afar, say a few words and be done with it. No, he needs to actually hear a proper response.

 

Like that, we make our way into the eastern lands, and begin approaching the mountains, though we can only see them when we’re at the peak of a hill or some similarly elevated spot, right now.

 

“My prince, there’s a group ahead of us.” – Stella comes from the front and reports while easily keeping pace with my mount

 

By the way, I’m the only one with a mount. An ironscale wyrm, think of it as a mix between a dragon and a horse. This one has deep blue scales… and I haven’t given it a name yet. I may just call it horse, in english, and enjoy how noone else knows what it means.

 

“I assume it’s not just a group of monkeys, or you wouldn’t have come report.”

“They appear to be adventurers.”

“This close to the keep… Can we avoid detection?”

 

I know, I know. We’re a group of several dozens, so we’re not exactly stealthy, but I am fairly confident that Stella’s senses are much sharper than those of humans or even elves, so she probably noticed them with plenty of room to spare.

 

“It would be easier to distract them.” – she says, and looks towards the orcs

 

I understand what she means. She’s implying I send some orcs to fight them and lure them away from us. As close as they are to the keep, they’re probably a group of aspiring heroes come here to slay Casus.

 

That means they feel they’re strong enough to fight a strong demon lord entrenched in his own fortress, and a handful of orcs would just be sacrificial lambs sent to the slaughter in front of them.

 

On the one hand, I did not enjoy the idea of sending any of my troops to die, but if we let them spot us, they would probably run away to inform a new demon lord was about to settle down, and that would cause us way too many troubles, way too soon.

 

“Should we just squash them?” – I wasn’t really asking anyone in particular, though.

 

Is not as if I want to kill ‘the good guys,’ if you can call a bunch of murderhobos such a thing, but I don’t like any of my options.

 

Send a small group of orcs to draw them away. Ie sacrifice some of my troops

 

Let them spot us and go back to warn others. Ie let them known a brand new demon lord is at its weakest and ready to be taken down. I specially don’t like that because said demonlord happens to be me.

 

Kill a bunch of do-gooders. I don’t really want to kill anyone to begin with, but I’m nost idealistic enough to think this can be solved with words.

 

“Well, I’ll go ready the troops, and-” – Stella was just starting to reply, when I was presented with another option

“I can send them away.” – our druid stated from seemingly out of nowhere.

 

I didn’t notice the gnome had come back.

 

“What will you do?”

“It’s easy for a druid to change the paths inside the woods, my prince. I’ll literally just make a huge detour in their path.”

“Is that so? Alright, go and do that. Stella, ready the troops, just in case,”

“Yes, my prince!”

 

And so, we moved to a slightly elevated position from where we could watch them without them noticing us right away. If things went wrong, we could charge downhill (and by we I mean the orcs) and take them by surprise.

 

While we watched, though, Ragashi subtly changed the paths, causing trees and plants to quite literally move a few feet from where they were, creating a curve on the path that would take them to their destination after a somewhat pronounced detour, and the adventurers followed along.

 

From where we were, we could have a fairly good look at them, though. A young man in white armor with blonde hair and blues, the typical fantasy hero, together with a solid-built dwarf with bulging muscles and an axe taller than he was (I think it’s called a halberd?), as well as a robed female with a walking staff, and a dark-haired elf with a bow strapped on his back.

 

I guess that would be a knight, a fighter, a cleric and a rogue? Well, rather than a cleric, I guess the female could be a wizard, too, though if I was an adventurer, I’d prefer to have a healer in the group.

 

Anyway, Kalkah whispers that the elf is doubtlessly a rogue, as a ranger would have spotted us at this distance, so it is probably alright to go on.

 

Well, if we had just hidden, though, they would have picked up our trail and eventually found us, but like this, they shouldn’t notice anything until they are almost on top of Castus’ keep to begin with.

 

It was a tough call, but I decided to wish for Castus’ successful defense. After all, if his keep gets taken down, I would end up surrounded by enemies on all sides, so as unpleasant as his business was, I needed him to come out on top, after all.

 

Such were the optimistic thoughts on my head when luck decided otherwise. A chimera beast attacked the rearmost of our group, causing the orcs and ogres there to fight back, which was immediately picked up by the adventurer group below us.

 

“There goes that. Stella, charge at them with Daai and six ogres, I’ll help our rearlines with that thing!”

“Yes, my prince!” – She didn’t really need to call for Daai, as the ogress was close enough to hear me, and she simply gestured half her group to go with her in an instant.

 

And so, I drew my staff and sword while heading back towards the roaring chimera.

 

~O~O~O~

 

Stella charged downhill at the surprised adventurers, her body growing hot as she dashed through the light vegetation, twigs snapping around her so fast that it created a near constant sound of tearing and cracking that heralded her arrival as surely as any howl would. She didn’t drew any weapons, and instead took to running on all four with an ease and grace that would make anyone think this was a very reasonable way for a humanoid to move at any given time.

 

Her cute face was flushed bright with anticipation as a fierce smile spread all over it, and her short hair was full of little twigs and leaves. Her left hand supporting her weight for just a moment as she reached forth with her right, her right leg extended while her left was already pulled forth and just about to kick the ground again. To the adventurers, she was just a deafening, constant sound of snapping twigs and branches approaching at terrorizing speed.

 

Even so, they were a strong and experimented group, and quickly moved into position, with the blond knight and tough dwarf moving to intercept while the caster and the rogue readied behind them in a 2-2 formation.

 

Stella emerged from the brushes and, as if inertia was a lie, instantly turned left and dissapeared from their sight in a moment.

 

“Werewolf!” – cried out the dwarf, being the most experienced member of the group, and surprised the caster as he reached back for her, grabbed her by the front of her robes and pulled, switching places with her.

“Grumnir, what are you doin~nya!” – the robe fell off the female’s head, revealing a pair of cat ears and a small, round face.

“It’ll come ’round and go for the backline!” – replied the dwarf as he quickly switched places with the cat-eared girl, shoving her next to the blonde knight and changing their formation so they had a frontliner and a backliner in every front.

 

Sure enough, Stella kept circling around them, appearing for just a moment then turning either left or right as she seeked for a weak spot in their formation, hunting the way wolves do, looking for anyone who panicked and split, anyone who looked likely to isolate and take down first.

 

“Shit, what’s she doing!?” – the rogue spit the words while holding his crossbow at the ready

 

A spear the size of a ballista’s proyectile tore through his skull and dragged him several meters backwards before sinking deep on a tree, effectively nailing the dead man in place.

 

“Distrating you.” – answered Daai as her troops emerged around the group

 

It was then that Stella finally leaped forth, in the middle of everyone’s confusion and horror, straight for their caster.

 

Time seemed to freeze as the brown skinned girl jumped at the petite red headed beastkin, a sight that looked just like an innocent and energetic, bit too-tomboyish friend jumping to glomp a friend. For just a moment. Then there was a incredibly brief tearing and snapping sound, and Stella finished her jump by diving back into the bushes behind the party.

 

The dwarf had managed to swing his axed and sink it on the werewolf’s side, momentum doing the rest of the work, leaving a deep gash down the entirety of her left side and a spray of red, white and sickly yellow liquids all over the forest floor.

 

Still, it wasn’t a silver weapon, so he was under any illusions as to having taken his foe down.

 

“Miiya!?” – the young knight snapped out of it and quickly turned around to try and use healing magic on his friend, but the beastkin had died almost insantly.

 

Her face looked so peaceful it made it seem a lie that her throat had been gored away by another girl’s teeth, deep enough to show the bone, having almost severed the beastkin’s head off.

 

“You fucks!” – he spun again, singing his shining sword as he charged at the nearest ogre

“If you didn’t want her to get hurt.” – replied Stella from somewhere in the bushes – “You shouldn’t have brought her along.”

 

Three more siege-sized spears flew from the hands of the surrounding ogres, and quickly tore the young knight apart.

 

“…well then, come and get it.” – growled the dwarf as he readied to sell himself dear

“Nah.” – Stella stood up from where she was in the bushes.- “Its just common sense to capture the last one, yes?”

 

Her pretty face was smiling, but the lower half of it was covered in blood and bits of flesh, with her uniform having been ripped apart from the side by the dwarf’s axe. Her shapely figure fully exposed, showed that her side was covered in blood, the beastkin and her own, though no wound was visible anymore.

 

Half a dozen nets, bolas and man-catchers flew at the dwarf, and the ‘fight’ was over.

 

“Take him back to master.” – said the werewolf as she looked at herself and sighed for her lost uniform.

“You’re not coming yet?” – Daai asked while ordering her ogres around

“Looting.”

 

~O~O~O~

 

The chimera was easily the size of an elephant from my previous world. I remember going to a zoo several times as a child, and then taking my own children along after growing up and getting married, but this was no gentle giant.

 

This thing had the body of a massive jaguar, and albeit at least one of its heads matched its body, the one on the left was a green dragon’s, and the one on the right… I have no idea what it was meant to be, but that was no goat. It had a thin and long jaw full of protuding teeth, with a single horn that looked like a blade sticking out from its forehead.

 

Its wings were massive, and bat-like, with a long and thick centipede for a tail, which somehow made it a perfect horror show to trigger anyone with fear of bugs, or anyone with a love for common sense, really, as it constantly seemed to crawl over the beast’s rear body while looking for prey.

 

It had already tore apart two orcs, one of their bodies tore open under its left paw, with the remains of the other being chewed, tore apart and shared between the jaguar and dragon heads.

 

Unlike what you’s seen in games, movies or books, there’s no flashy and convenient crying out your spell’s name as you cast it, though. Just the mental formulas coming together and coalescing into spells.

 

For me, anyway. I know some people still need to recite their spell formulas out loud, but I couldn’t help but imagine they would probably be the same types that read at live voice or talk to themselves while doing math.

 

Ah, I feel like I just channeled ‘the prince’ me there for a second.

 

Since I didn’t need to recite my spells, I instead called out orders.

 

“Clear the front!” – (most of) the orcs jumped aside, and a wave of blue fire surged forth from my hands, spreading as it moved, and bathing the chumera in arcane flames.

“UGAAAAHRRR!” – its leopard head growled with its eyes closed, while the dragon head hurried in swallowing its prey and the … lets just call it the goat head. Its goat head made a cry that was nothing like the cute cry of a goat, but instead sounded more like the horrifying bark of an all-too-big fox, instead.

 

The orc that didn’t move away was lying flat on the ground. He wasn’t dead, though, as the spell wasn’t a particularly damaging one. It was instead ‘setting up’ for my next blast, drying off the beast’s fur, then coating it with an eldritch-ignition agent, all while blinding the head that had looked straight at the flame wave when it hit.

 

The ‘goat’ head was neither impressed nor amused, though, and spewed a straight bolt of acid towards me with the same force a fireman’s hose might have, causing the forest ground to creak and blacken at the touch, withering anything it touched.

 

It was a constant stream, so I saw little point to try and dodge, as the ‘goat’ would just chase me with it anywhere I went, and instead opted for rising a shield in front of me, shaping it like < in order to help it deflect the liquid away from me.

 

No reason to fight it head on if I can just force it to the sides, after all.

 

Meanwhile, the orcs and ogres had long readied themselves, and as soon as the chimera was focused on me, agian attacking it with javelins and arrows.

 

By the way, I am aware that in fantasy, orcs are always depicted as melee grunts, and I understand why that is, but in truth, if you have someone who is both taller and stronger than the average man, the weapon you want him to use is a greatbow, one of those that benefit the most out of the user’s strenght, and that require considerable power in order to use in the first place.

 

Yeah, they have broad swords for melee, but in reality, orcs are archers, and damn dangerous ones at that. To be honest, I see little reason why any sapient species would -want- to enter melee if it was at all possible to kill their foes from afar, except for morons, those who were protected by tough and nearly impenetrable hides, those able to field considerable armor (and unable to fully use ranged weapons for some reason, such as a dwarf’s height and arm lenght disadvantage), or had insane agility and a cheat-like regeneration ability, like Stella.

 

In a related point, now that we were fighting back, it was rather obvious that the chimera had realized we weren’t a band of monkeys ready to scamper and run away as soon as it pounced on one of us, so like any natural predator that already got its share, it was getting ready to run away and avoid unnecessary combat. Well, that’s perfectly natural, as in the wilderness, most predators will aim for weak, small prey they can take down with minimum fuss, or use a single debilitating strike before retreating and waiting for poison, blood loss or disease (ie komodo dragons) to do the actual kill.

 

All the same, if we let it go, there was a very good chance that once hunger reared its head again, and after long enough had passed that the memory of us fighting back seemed less real, it would come hunt us again, so we couldn’t afford to let it go.

 

It jumped and swiped with its claws at the closest group of orcs and ogres, but they naturally retreated while the rest continued to pour javelins and arrows on its side, causing it to spin in place, roaring at everyone while we turned it into a pincushion bit by bit.

 

I was fairly thankful that the ‘goat’ had spent its attack on me, as it would certainly had melted down a large number of troops otherwise, but I was just as worried about the dragon head, as it was finishing to swallow the last bits of the unfortunate orc, and would probably do a similar attack soon enough.

 

I wonder if the goat and dragon heads have less control of the body? The jaguar was still blinded, and the body seemed to be clumsy and oafish as it lunged around without actually catching anyone.

 

Anyway, now that it was covered in igniting agent, I saw no reason to wait for the dragon to show me what type of breath it had, so I immediately fired a series of fire bolts at its body.

 

“GRAAAAARRGGH!”

 

The jaguar opened its bloodshot eyes, pure pain and fear driving it forth as it tried to fly to escape, but we had more than enough nets and bolas to make such a thing impossible for it.

 

Again, this was no more than a particularly large and dangerous beast, so it followed its instincts, and wasn’t particularly hard for a group of coordinated ‘hunters’ to bring down after the initial shock and awe of its attack had worn off.

 

It did try to run away, though, dragging the troops holding on to the nets until enough bolas managed to entangle on its legs and all it could do was burn.

 

“That really stinks.” – commented Daai as she threw a netted dwarf near me

“Hn.” – I nodded – “Shame for the fur, but we can still get some materials out of it. I hope.”

“Ah! You’re a demon brat!?”

“How observant.” – I rendered the dwarf unconscious with a kick to the head.

 

 

 

 

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