Author’s Note: Chapter 6 was updated and the fight scenes make it twice as long. If you are wondering how come the bodies have already hit the floor, that’s what happened. I was however tempted to pull a Katanagatari joke and just constantly reference how awesome the fight was without ever showing bits of it, tbh.
“Alright, that was a thing.” – says Stella as she arrives carrying the bodies of all three adventurers on her shoulders while wearing a caster-like robe.
Well, since she’s wearing something else, and the one female of the group is naked, it stands to reason that she took her clothes, though I’m not sure on why.
“Hm. Daai, please supervise the dismantling of the chimera.”
“Yes, young master.” – says the ogress as she heads over to the fallen beast
Stella bends over to drop the bodies to the ground. A beastkin female, an armored human, and a black-haired elf in leather armor.
“My uniform got torn.” – she says matter of fact without us needing to ask anything.
“Alright. Anything of notice?”
“This one had a silver-glowing sword, so I kept away from it.” – she points to the knight
She undoes the knight’s sword belt and hands the sword to me. It isn’t actually silver, though it does glow that way.
“Probably a magical weapon. Since he’s a hero, it may be a holy sword? It’s not silver.”
“Hmm. The others didn’t have anything too special.”
I use a simple dweomer to check for magic in their gear, and Stella’s new robe glows for a couple of moments, as does the staff she has strapped on her back, the elf’s boots, and the axe the dwarf was carrying.
“I assume you don’t want any of the weapons?”
“Nn.” – my childhood friend nods.
Well, handing a weapon to a werewolf and telling her to fight with it is just a way to nerf her, to the point you could call it bullying, really.
“Alright, let’s have the orcs dig some graves for these guys.”
“Of course. You weren’t planning to eat them, were you? We do have a chimera’s worth of cooked meat over there…”
“O-of course I wasn’t!” – she blurts out.- “Idi- hn… I mean, why bother?”
“Well, I’m also having them dig two graves for the orcs the chimera got. I find the idea of leaving sentient beings to rot out on the open, distasteful.”
“Hmm… why don’t we incinerate them and just spread the ashes? You can do that with magic, right?”
“Yeah, alright let’s go with that.”
That’s how, the dwarf wakes up just in time to see the pyres as I’m burning his friends ashes (along with the fallen orcs).
I find him sitting where he woke up, having rolled over unto his ass from his prone position. Of course I have him tied up and escorted by an ogre.
“Eh… you aren’t cooking them, are you?”
“That so? Yer a weird one, aren’t you?”
“I don’t believe in leaving people to rot, that’s all. Plus, the corpses would pull in wild beasts.”
The dwarf looks utterly unconvinced by the second half of our statement, probably because the chimera’s body is too big and hasn’t been fully processed yet. In fact, we’ve had a few incidents of animals coming closer after the scent of blood.
“Alright, it just seemed the respectful thing to do.”
“You are pretty calm.” – I comment
“Would panicking help?”
“No, I guess no. And you could’ve killed me while I was unconscious, so there’s that.”
“So, what is it you want?”
“Well, I’m curious about meeting a fabled dwarf, to begin with.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard and read about your kind, but never seen one before. Lots of tales about your skill with stone, and I am planning in building my own keep soon enough.”
“Ah, you’re the newest demon lord, then.”
“Indeed.” – I repeat
A few moments pass as the dwarf digest my words.
“You’ll put a slave collar on me and make me build ye the damn thing?”
“Yes, and no. I fancy myself an architect, and to be honest, I have my own ideas on how to build the fortress. You’d be more of an advisor, if anything. The orcs and the ogres will do the manual labor and heavy work, respectively.”
“Oh, an architect, uh?”
“Everyone has at least one interest in life, right?”
“And you think I’ll just help you after you killed my friends?”
“Your group was trying to ambush and kill my brother, weren’t you? He may be an asshole, but he’s still family. Surely a dwarf will understand you don’t need to like your clansmen to be loyal to them.”
“Alright. From now on, feel free to call me ‘my prince,’ though any respectful term would be fine. I am Asmund Accussa, assigned as the lord over the Eastern Swamp. Well, I guess it would be the western swamp to you.”
“We call it the Lotus Swamp, actually.”
“Mm. Good, I’ll call it that as well, then.”
After that, I closed the slave collar around Grumnir the dwarf’s neck, and added him to my group.
By the way, I guess you’d like to know what all those supplies we’ve been carrying from the start were for, right? You see, the roman legions of earth were professional soldiers, but even more so, they were fantastic builders. It was fairly standard to have them carry a whole campsite with them, along with palisades and watch towers (disassembled of course), then have them arm and disarm them as needed every time they stopped or resumed march.
The result of that was, every single time, the campsite was exactly the same, and in the event of an emergency, every man knew where their officers were, where the medic was, and so on. It gave the men a sense of familiarity and safety no matter where they went.
I don’t expect to reproduce quite the same just yet, but for now, let’s start with having them clear an area of forest the exact same size every night, and assemble the tents in the exact same positions every night.
By the way, my tent isn’t even the largest one, that one belongs to the ogres, though the lot of them have to share it. I guess you could say it has the largest space to inhabitants rate, though, since Kalkah and I are its only inhabitants.
“My lord, you are quite tense still.” – says the sensual elf as she washes my shoulders and back
We’re both inside the bronze tub she carries in her [Storage Ring]. As my personal maid, she’s in charge of most of my every day necessities, after all, and as such, the ring is practically full with my furniture, wardrobe and beddings, including of course, this tub.
Given the choice between a cargo wagon that wasn’t likely to make it over the mountains, and the ring, I chose the ring.
“Well, we did lose 2 orcs already, and it isn’t even the 2nd day.”
“I see. I doubt we’ll be attacked by monsters on that size everyday, though.”
“Hopefully, you’re right.”
The luscious dark elf presses herself against my back, speaking softly while rubbing me clean with her breasts.
“Why don’t you unwind by enjoying your maid, my prince?”
“….sounds good to me.”
I turn around and push her back while I kiss her, casually pushing her legs apart as I move between them.
“My prince, all the tents have been set, and the troops are having dinner.” – informs me Stella after a few minutes.
“…very well, you’re dismissed.” – I reply while looking at her as I pin Kalkah against the bronze tub’s edge
I didn’t notice her coming in, but I’m pretty sure she just got tired of waiting for me to notice her… well, it’s not like her impression of me can get any worse.
“Uuuh… my lord just got harder…♥” – says the lewd maid as she smiles
A couple hours later, I’m resting on the bed with Kalkah, when I decide to get up and check the campsite. A surprise inspection won’t do any harm, I think.
I push the elf maid off, and she cooes a complaint.
“Since you’re awake, help me dress.”
“Yes Master.” – she always gets so mellow and respectful at times like these
By the way, as a dark elf, she requires but half an hour of rest every day, a trance-like state where awareness isn’t gone, but their mind rests by getting as close as a state of true sleep as an elf can get. Which, of course, is just one more reason why elves are considered excellent domestic slaves, being available to serve their masters pretty much around the clock.
Well, awake or not, I like feeling her lying against my side, so there.
The campsite is as quiet as you’d expect, with just two orcs on watch at every corner of it. Well, I instructed them to take three hour shifts, so at this time of year, that’ll be four shifts a night.
Why so many shifts? You’re obviously familiar with the ideal of 8 hours rest a night, right? Well, that’s for worlds with electricity, isn’t it? In fact, humans living in a ‘natural’ environment quickly shirt to two sleep cycles of 3-4 hours each, with at least an hour in between during the night. Every wondered why old families were typically huge? Well, try being with your spouse in bed with nothing to do but each other for 2 hours or so every night forever, and you too will have twelve or so children, you know?
“Ah, my prince. I heard ya slew a monster while I was gone.” – Ragashi picks this moment to return from the wilderness
“Hm. Did you found us tomorrow’s route?”
“Yes, my prince.”
“Alright, let me see.”
As our guide, I entrusted him with an enchanted map, a surprisingly cheap magical item aimed at adventurers. It will automatically record the lands they move through, and as such it’s something of an automap.
Ragashi’s map, in this case, shows he moved quite a bit, and suggests a route that will take us over a cliff overseeing a waterfall.
“You do remember not all of us can transform into a bird to fly across, correct?”
“Of course, sire, but the cliff is not so wide we cannot build a rope bridge across.”
Ah… I’m tempted, I’m so tempted…! Did you know, when Julius Caesar was invading the lands of germania, he famously built a bridge in order to ride across the wide river.
How should a conqueror move his legions across? By boat? Swim? Are you serious? He crossed in style. It took him just a week or so, and the germans were so awed by the sight of Caesar’s bridge just growing hour by hour and day by day over the waters, than when it was finally done and the legions rode across, they just broke and fled, despite having a 30-to-1 advantage.
I am sure that for them, it must have seen similar to an UFO landing on top of the white house and creating a stable wormhole for an alien army to invade through.
“Is there a problem, my prince?” – Kalkah looks at me as I clear my throat
“Nothing much, just some idle thoughts.”
That’s right, there’s no need for such a showy thing to happen. It’s not as if I’m trying to impress anyone. Once we arrive to the site, we’ll build a portal square, so there’s no point to laying down permanent roads along the way.
By the way, once Caesar was done with the bridge, having returned from across the river, he had it demolished. No reason to leave a perfectly good bridge to the barbarians.
“How long until the mountains?”
“I’d say three days, my prince.”
Let’s add to that at least two weeks to cross the mountains, and then… well, we may find an ideal spot to settle down in on the first day, or it may take a couple of weeks. Even if we do find a good spot on the first day, I want our druid to study the local plants and animals to see which ones, if any, could be valuable as trade goods, so let’s round it all out to a month, just to be on the safe side.
“Alright, go to rest, since we’re leaving early.”
“As you wish.”
We watch the pervert leave, and I decide that continuing our walk around the campsite is a really good idea in order to forget about him.
“Hm.. mister Grumnir, you should try and rest.” – we find the dwarf sitting outside of his assigned tent.
By the way, Stella’s tent is right between his and mine, so she can keep an eye on him while acting as my bodyguard. I mean, just because he can’t run away, it doesn’t means we’re friends or that I’m going to trust him all of a sudden or anything like that.
“A vigil for my friends.”
“You got their ashes, right?”
“Yes, in those little vases you gave me.”
“I’ll keep you for five years. It may sound long to a human, but not so long for you or I, then you can take their ashes home.”
“Hmph. I’m not gonna say thanks.”
“That’s fine, I’m planning on working you hard. I want your race’s [stonecunning] expertise to help me lay the foundations of my home.”
“Eh? You’re not growing it out the mountainside?”
“No. Structures built with magic are too weak against it.”
“Natural stone isn’t any better, though…”
“I know what you are thinking. You dwarves can manipulate stone and make it ‘less’ susceptible to magic, but that still just means it takes a little more effort than usual. It’s like a hard crust around a sponge cake. Once you are through, there’s hardly any resistance at all.”
“Then, what are you talking about?”
“Let me tell you about cement and concrete…”
The dwarf’s eyes shone as we talked into the night, and by the time we were done, I knew I had ‘really’ added him to my crew.
“And I can leave in five years?”
“If you want. I’ll just ask you for your word, stating that you will not talk about my construction methods while you are working with me, and I don’t even mind if you write home, or whatever. Swear it on your clan’s name, of course.”
“I understand. I do, I swear so in the honor of clan Brassbeard and the Opal kingdom. So, what else are you planning?”
“Interested?” – I grin
“Ah, now you’re just playing with me.”
We talk about water mills and electricity, we talk about material strength and tension, about stone arcs and domes. We talk about engineering and architecture, and before either one of us notices, the sky begins to lit and the last guard shift is done.
“…and then he took down the bridge?” – he asks
“It had served its purpose. Well, once I’m done pacifying the region, I’m planning on starting several villages, so good roads will be a necessity. Can’t build portals going to every little town, after all.”
“Hmm. Five years, uh?”
“Is it feeling short?”
“Aye, yer a real demon, alright.”
We follow the map our druid provided, and reach the cliffs early during the next day’s evening. As tempted as I was to build a proper bridge, in the end we just took down some large trees, cut them in half so they would make two wide, smooth surfaces each, and had Ragashi use an [Ironwood] spell to make them as tough and resilient as metal before throwing them over the river and crossing on them.
Magic really is a cheat-like skill. If it wasn’t because anything magic does, magic can unmake, I am sure construction and architecture in general would have long surpassed my old world’s standards.
Continuing towards the mountains, we stopped every night and restarted moving in the mornings, and I am quite pleased with how used everyone has gotten to clearing a large area, then building camp in the exact same manner every night. Initial confusion has vanished, once everyone realized just how convenient it is to do so, and we’ve begun digging up (with magic) a latrine and a bath as well, having the druid use his [Create Spring] spell to provide fresh water during our trip, much to the delight of the ogres, as now everyone can have a bath once the campsite is ready at night.
Even so, we’re making fairly good time, and soon arrive at the hills announcing the mountains to come. We start moving upwards now, and the constant climbing saps everyone’s vitality, slowing us down quite a bit. Worse still, we’re near the equator, so it is particularly hot during the day, seeing as we’re quite far from the sea or any large bodies of water by now, and so everyone starts having quite a miserable time.
Setting up the campsite in this conditions is quite the chore, but even the orcs appreciate the bath now, and I order to distribute the thicker clothes before temperatures begin dropping with the arrival of night.
Stella kept the robes, but changed back into a spare uniform, which she is now wearing under a short but quite fluffy fur coat. She claims she’s fine and that her kind is resistant against cold to begin with, so I see no reason to argue with her.
If she changes her mind, we have plenty of long coats to spare… wait.
“Stella, where did you get that short coat?”
“I cut the one I got.”
“I don’t know if I should be impressed that you sewed and tailored it so well, or angry at you for ruining one of our coats.”
“I kept the rest and am using it as a bed warmer, you know? If it gets really cold, I can just add it back, don’t worry, my prince.”
“Uh. You really have talent as a seamstress, I guess…”
Who knew this tomboy had such girly talents? I remember her chasing squirrels through the bushes around the palace, and running away from the cook after stealing meat from the pantry (who chased after her with a butcher’s knife).
“Well, it does suit you.”
Indeed, there’s a refreshingly feminine feel to her if you look at her from behind, since it looks as if she was nude under a short coat, her smooth, shapely legs on display with her uniform’s short pants juuust hidden by the coat.
“…thank you, my prince.” – she replies softly while looking away from me
As expected, at this latitude, the mountain peaks aren’t snow covered, and the thick rain forest is basically a uninterrupted world of green, instead.
Nothing but trees. Even though my words might make you think so, the truth is that there’s barely any tree now, and instead, smaller plants and bushes dominate the areas near the mountain peaks. I’m not really sure when it happened, but indeed, there’s barely any trees around us. The plants are so thick against each other, however, that we can barely see the ground, so accidents become more and more common.
When an orc disappears, it should be hardly a surprise, but the problem is that this is not a case of one of a vanguard member stepping over a green-covered cliff or chasm, but of one of the rear guards going missing without anyone noticing until we stopped for the night, and his hands were missed during the routine every-night campsite building work.
This is not Earth. This is a fantasy-like, savage world, where there is no such thing as too many precautions. In this world, there are excellent chances that any feeling of being chased or stalked meant that you were indeed being chased or stalked.
After all, there are plenty of beasts, magical or otherwise, in this world. The problem is, there was no scream nor fight, and that means that whatever took down our missing orc must have done so in an instant.
It cannot have been a large flying beast. No matter how dull the orcs may be, they would have felt if a huge, monster-sized eagle swoop by and grabbed one of them. So, an ambush-type monsters, like a giant tunnel spider? Wouldn’t those leap forth at the first creature to approach their lair, instead of waiting for all of them to pass by and then grabbing the very last one?
No, we’re talking about a fantasy-like enemy, so thinking of an intelligent ambush-type monster isn’t far-fetched at all.
If that’s the case, I’m almost tempted to say its alright, but I think I should be thankful about retaining enough of my previous life’s common sense to hate the idea of losing those under my command and protection.
I order to double the troops in guard duty tonight, and tour around the campsite in the middle of the night. Nothing happens that night, but as soon as the sun is high enough, the druid points out trails of something around the campsite.
“Something walking on stilts. That’s what it looks like.” – is the best the little pervert can say
I immediately think about my giant spider theory again, but it may just as well be a giant centipede or any other soft of creature with long legs.
Not having any further clues, we decide to continue moving while being more careful on our way down the mountain, and I introduce the orcs to the buddy system, so that if anyone goes missing, his buddy will sound the alarm as soon as possible this time.
Finally, it looks like we’re making good time for a change. We’re moving at a good, constant speed, and according to the perv- I mean, our druid, there’s only 1 more mountain to go over before we are done with this mountain range.
To be honest, I have been taking notes as we advanced. I saw at least two mountain peaks made of seemingly solid rock, each of which looks like a fantastic spot for a fortified settlement. If, once we examine the swamp, we don’t see anywhere as good, I am almost decided to come back and build the settlement there. There’s always the option of terrace farming, like the Inca did in Perú.
Soon, though, I find that my daydreaming about cities above the clouds has taken too much of my attention when Grumnir points out at something down the mountainside.
It looks like a secretary bird, but the scale is all wrong. It takes a moment before my mind processes what it is looking at, but once you look at just how high it stands over the bushes, you immediately realize that it is the bird of prey equivalent of a giraffe. It is so tall, it does indeed look as if it was walking on stilts, with a body that must be about the size of a bear’s, even with its neck and head pulled in.
“Did you saw many of those on your way west, sir dwarf?”
“Nay, this is the first one. I didn’t even know about them, so it may be unique to this region.”
I think about it. Even back on ‘modern’ Earth, new species unique to specific biospheres continue to show up. A entire species of ants that do not exist anywhere but on a single freakishly old tree, fish that exist in a specific river, and only between X and Y lakes. The Galapagos are full of such species, but those are islands… anyway, I’m thinking about what such a bird may hunt in this region, when I see it stretch its neck back and forth in a moment, striking at the ground under the bushes, and ripping off a piece of flesh from some unfortunate critter we cannot see.
If this is our orc killer, was that a freak occurrence, or is it used to preying on hominids?
The horrible answer to my question comes in the form of a tiny humanoid running away from the bird, only visible for a couple of moments, as there is some rocks without bushes on them. It came out of the bushes, ran over the rocks, and disappeared into the bushes again, much too fast for me to take a good look at it.
Considering the bushes reach up to about hip height, the poor thing must be about as tall as a gnome? The ‘secretary bird’ gives a couple of freakishly fast steps and catches up to the poor guy, then kicks him with such strength that we can hear the bones crunch and snap all the way over here. It sends shivers up my spine, but if that’s how it hunts, how come we didn’t hear it take out the orc?
Of course, that assumes it picked the orc off right from its spot at the rearguard, but it may just as well have jumped unto it while it was slightly away to take a crap, after all.
As it finally notices us and turns its head towards us, it reaches down with its long neck and tears off the poor thing it just killed, swallows it in a few moments, and takes to the sky.
I’m just processing what just happened, when I hear a cry like that of a dying man crying with a throat full of glass, and looking up, we are horrified to see a flock of those things.
“Everyone, the treeline is just below us, hurry it up!”
I don’t mind fighting a single giant beast, but a swarm is due to kill too many of us before we succeed in shooing them off.
Not my most dignified moment as a demon lord, but I see no reason to lose troops on a fight without profits, and so, we run for 10 minutes towards the trees below us on the mountainside, when the birds decide that we do look like prey after all, and start diving towards us…