“Why in the goddess name did they think that walls like those were a good idea?” – Ahab, the scout of the Dancing Light adventurer party said to noone but himself as he looks around the outpost in the swamp.
‘I guess they keep out the swamp lizards well enough, but totally wasted against actual invaders. Moreover, why is it that there’s no rain over the fortress?’ – he contemplated the dry island for a while.
The area immediately outside the walls was flooded by lizards happily sunbathing while out of the rain, though it looked like the best spots were immediate to the walls, as the rain resumed bit by bit as distance increased, turning back into its usual deluge before the beginning of the water.
‘I can’t believe I’m envious of a bunch of lizards and orcs, but this goddess-damn rain is a nightmare.’
With that, Ahab began crawling away back towards his friends.
“You were, erh… loudly positive last night.” – commented Stella while drinking hot tea, a noticeable blush on her pretty, round face.
“Is that so? Please forgive my indiscretion.” – says Kalkah as she serves some cake to the guard captain
“Aren’t you embarrassed!?”
“Quite. Can’t you tell?”
The young werewolf looked at the elf maid, but she seemed the same as always. A clean and tidy uniform, her hair in place, secured by a tight bun behind her head. Her long, delicate ears pointed up and to the sides of her head, and her eyes were quite calm.
“I really can’t. A-are you alright? It… it hurts, right? W-weren’t you scared?” – the guard captain’s ears flatten against the top of her head as she looks down and sips from her tea cup
“Master is indeed vigorous, but he’s also learned a gentle and considerate touch ever since his birthday, you know? You can tell, can’t you?”
“I guess its true that he feels more like an adult… he also properly listens to others and is willing to admit it when his opinion is wrong now… b-but even so…!”
“Master is deeply sorry about what he did to you.” – says Kalkah in a surprisingly firm voice
“I believe his inexpert self may have injured your feelings, but you do understand he cares about you, do you not?”
“Perhaps you could invite him to play jidya at your tent one night? Start by spending time together and rebuild your friendship.”
“I am sorry to have kept you waiting.” – I say as I leave my tent
Indeed, I was working in the blueprints for the farmers’ houses, as well as the aqueducts and the water reservoirs I want to build in order to offer clean, running water to everyone’s homes. The Romans had a fascinating network of aqueducts that, using simple algae, cleaned the water long before it reached their cities.
There will be four public water reservoirs, high in the mountain sides. Two to the north, and two to the south, so that water can be used to irrigate the farming terraces in those areas, and easily directed to the farmer’s houses.
Furthermore, each house will have its own privy near the sewer, so that waste is quickly and efficiently kept away from the homes and carried away from the valley. I am afraid I will have to be a bit tyrannical here, and enforce a severe penalty for anyone who is caught heeding nature’s call on the fields… or anywhere else but on the designated toilets, really.
In Japan, IIRC, it was the death penalty… well, I think five years slavery is a more threatening, or rather, a more viable threat in the mind of the common citizen. They may dare try me if I say I’ll kill them, and I would probably forgive them, but five years of slavery turns them into my private assets, and that sounds a lot more believable, doesn’t it?
By the way, I’m building a private water reservoir for my manor, and it will have a indoor bathroom, complete with a tub. It is good to be the demon lord.
“It is quite alright. Even I can tell you’ve been working hard as of late.” – says Stella as she lowers her cup. She looks a bit flushed. She’s not coming with a cold, is she?
“Well, alright. Do you have a report to make?”
“Yes! In the eastern outpost, a patrol has failed to return, and in the same day, a hunting group has gone missing.”
“I don’t think we may be so fortunate as it being a case of them running away together…?”
“That’s what I thought.” – I sigh
Honestly, I think we were exceedingly lucky that it took this long before another adventuring party showed up.
“Well, now that the portal is open, we have access to the actual army, so what do you want to do?”
“Eh? Me!?” – Stella’s ears perk up
“You are my guard captain, of course you.”
“You don’t want to draw our plan yourself?”
“I’m a public servant, I’ll leave military matters to the military, thank you very much.”
“A public servant, is it?”
“Yes. Management. You don’t tell me how to build a bridge, I won’t tell you how to fight.”
I’m not the OP protagonist in a book. I can’t do everything, nor am I a peerless genius. I just happen to have a technical knowledge advantage thanks to the memories of my past life, that’s all. Ah, and I also have way more mana than normal, but that is ‘much more than expected for a demon lord my age,’ and not ‘more than an average demon lord.’ The difference is quite important.
“Well, what are you waiting for, captain?”
“I… I just want to finish my cake.”
“Twenty five houses to the north, twenty five to the south. Two floors, wooden roofs, a hen house, and a small silo. That’s enough space for fifty families in the farming area, not including the two large swamp drake farms right against the plateau.” – says Grimnir – “You really are making a farming community here.”
“I said I would, didn’t I?”
“Ah, forgive me my lord, but, well… you’re a demon lord.”
“Do you know what a demon lord actually is, Grumnir?”
“They’re the enemy of the world?”
“A demon lord is a mass of selfish desire. That means we will do whatever we want to do. I have no reason to lie to you. If I want to turn a mudhole into a farming valley, I’ll do it. Once I’m done, I’ll turn the swamp into a breadbasket and trade with the surrounding regions.”
“And you’ll flood the plains.” – he adds softly
“I said I would, wouldn’t I?”
“There’s farmers living there. Families, villages…”
“I’ll happily take them in once they’re homeless.”
“Once you make them homeless.”
“Yes, once I make them homeless.”
The dwarf gives me a hard look, but doesn’t says anything.
“Would it help your conscience if I said I plan to be a much, much better feudal lord than whoever is exploiting them right now? Clean homes, excellent public safety, disease and flood control, relatively low taxes, freedom of migration, schools and churches, plus centralized silos to stabilize food prices and prevent famine.”
“Excellent public safety?”
“Ideally, the villagers pay taxes to the lord, and in exchange, the lord protects them. How common are bandits and monsters in the regions to the east?”
“The answer is ‘common enough there’s a need for an adventurer’s guild,’ Grumnir. In truth, most feudal lords are no different from bandit lords. They extort taxes and give nothing in return. I plan on actually using those taxes for public works and safety. A well regulated and professional army, patrolling my domain and answering the villagers’ needs.”
“An orc army.”
“I did not think you a racist.”
That surprised him, I can tell. Well, for months now, he’s lived and worked with the orcs and ogres here, and seen them obediently follow instructions as they do construction work.
“They’re just people. Their culture is different from yours, but that can be changed. Their lives are no longer than a human’s anyway. In a single generation, they will be much more educated and law abiding. In two, there will be practically no difference between them and any other species. You’re a dwarf, what’s 30 or 50 years to you?”
“And you’re doing that… just to sate your selfish desire?”
“Yes. It is my selfish desire, and that’s the only justification any demon lord will ever need.”
“May your selfishness be bottomless, my lord.”
“It still has a long way to go before it is sated.” – I declare, and pull out the blueprints for the terraces and aqueducts. I want his opinion, after all.
“I don’t understand.” – says Kalkah when we leave the construction site and head back to my tent – “Why give away migratory rights?”
“Well, its not like I will grant it right away… 10 years should be good enough. New settlers come in, inhabit and work the land for 10 years, then they’re free to leave whenever they want. Of course, they’ll probably have families by then, but IF they do leave, they will only be reminded of how nice they had it back here compared to anywhere else.”
“And they’ll say so to whoever listens, and come back.” – she says in a slightly surprised tone
“With new settlers, yes. The first few, we’ll probably have to abduct and enslave. A very gentle slavery where they have to work my lands, and keep 70% of everything they make in complete safety, comfort and health.”
“As far as I know, most lords charge a 50% tax. I believe 30% will be quite generous, and more than enough. Rather than squeezing as hard as I can and have them drip out of grip, I’d rather hold them in the palm of my open hand, watch them grow, and my tax with them.”
“I can’t tell if Master is kind or cruel.”
“I don’t think there’s a difference. I’m the government. That’s all. I do intend to be an efficient government, though.”
We reach my tent, and she helps me remove my jacket, then set up some hot water on the wooden stove, and stands by to wait for my instructions as I resume working on my manor’s blueprints.
“What was that about churches?” – she asks after a few minutes while waiting ror the water to heat up
“Temples. Religious freedom is important.”
“Even if the Light Goddess encourages humans to fight us?”
“Education can overcome fanaticism.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I used to have friends with… different religious beliefs than me. The dis-empowered amongst their religion were easy to manipulate, as were the insane, but that is true of any group. The educated and well-off consider them colorful and silly, nothing more.”
“Do you really think so?” – she repeats herself
“I want to believe so, but I know religions will always be an issue, at least until a new leader forces reforms. It might be harder considering the goddesses like to show up and pass down dogma personally, but in the end, I do strongly believe that the best sanitizer is the sun.”
“Once people talk about something openly and to an educated audience, their ideas will have to stand on their own. Even the ideas of gods.”
“Yes, I truly do believe so.”
“I hate this rain.” – says Ahab as he comes out of the shadows unto his friends’ campfire
“Don’t be like that. Rain is but the life blessing of the goddess.” – answers Rai as he stands straight, smiling upwards with his arms wide apart as if he wanted to embrace the rain.
By his hip, holy sword Corgi shined in agreement, bathing the area in a gentle silver light.
“Rai, so cool ~♪” – chirped Eliena, Rai’s childhood friend/adoptive sister/???.
Her family had found Rai lost in the wilderness when he was but a child, and declaring him a gift from the goddess, took him home and raised him in their small elven community. Over the years, Eliena went from Rai’s substitute mother, to substitute older sister, to friend, to faithful follower after he managed to pull out Corki, the Sword of Hope, out of the rock shrine in the middle of her village’s temple.
“I know you and Eliena come from a desert tribe, but I’m surprised that 6 weeks of rain still haven’t worn off the ‘magic’ of it for you.” – adds the tall, redheaded barbarian as he sits by the fire, covered in a tar-painted cloak, keeping himself as dry and warm as he can.
“…” – Amanastasia, their druid, remained stoically quiet while taking advantage of their barbarian’s huge frame to shield herself from the rain.
Her petite frame was an easy fit under Sarah’s massive bulk. She was sitting cross legged, her hands holding each end of a kebab as she quietly chewed on her dinner, her cheeks bloated like some sort of small furry animal.
In fact, her own cloak did a great job of hiding her short ears and tail, and her face had no indications that she might be anything else but a petite human youngster and the party’s loli mascot.
“Whatever. Listen, there’s no main entrance in any wall, but there are two solid-looking metal doors at the base of the north and southern towers.” – continues Ahab as he sits by the fire and grabs a kebab
“I doubt they’re solid metal.” – says the beastkin druid – “They’re probably just plated to prevent magic from warping them out of their hinges.”
“Thank you, miss exposition, for pointing the obvious.”
If Amanastasia Winterbloom, great druid of the east, cared about her companion’s comment, she gave no sign of it.
“Going in from the front, making a hole in the walls?” – she replied instead
“Pretty standard plan. But it is standard because it works!” – says Rai as he draws his sword and points towards where he thinks the fortress lies.
Actually, he was pointing away, but that wasn’t very important.
“Tomorrow at noon, we charge in and wipe them out while they’re blinded by the goddess radiance!”
“Rai, so cool ♥!”
Holy sword Corgi glowed bright, a low, happy humm emanating from its blade as small openings opened in the clouds and bright golden sunlight descended upon the goddess champions.
“Oi, what’s that?” – Krugo pointed at a strange sight in the distance, poking his friend on the ribs so he would pay attention
“Hmmmm… “ – Agran looked at the pillars of light descending from the sky unto the swamp, stuck his hand under his helmet and scratched at his balding head – “We better let the others know we’re getting attacked tomorrow at noon.” – said the experienced orc
“What, seriously!?” – Krugo Ratablanca was a fresh recruit, but his friend Agran Avalanch was a veteran.
In fact, at the ripe old age of 45, Agran is already on his last tour. Once the month is over, he can go home, receive land, and legally marry and start a family. He was the inspiration for every other orc in the outpost, a living legend who had already fought and survived three different chosen ones and at least one reluctant hero!
“Yes, definitively. Let’s warn the others.”
They descended the wall, and drew everyone’s attention. And that’s why they sent a messenger raven back to warn Stella. It would take four days for reinforcements to come for them, but all they could do was endure.
“Its just a bunch of orcs, this’ll be easy.” – declared Rai as he readied Corgi, the holy sword
“Let’s go!” – noone knows why it was that Eliena didn’t proclaim Rai’s coolness
After all, the handsome young man was displaying his most refreshing smile right now.
The plan was simple. At noon, run against the walls and have Amanastasia (Sia for her friends) melt the wall in front of them with a [Rock to Mud] spell so they could take advantage of the orcs’ weakest moment (noon) and take them down as quickly as they could.
And thus they charged. Sarah, Rai, Eliena, Ahab and Amanastasia in the back. Of course, a [Waterstrider] spell allowed them to walk (in this case, run) over still water, thus allowing them to charge over the swamp water on their way to the wall.
“Sarah, that lizard’s coming at us!”
“Gaaao!” – the parrotcroc lunged out of the water, its massive beak wide open as it struck like lightning!
The lizard’s head fell into the water, followed by its body. The splash disturbed the water, so their spell fizzled and they sank down to the waist.
Most of them, anyway. Amanastasia sank down to her chin, and suddenly very much hated her life. Being neck deep in swamp water and liches is not how she expected this attack to start.
The rest of the lizards had the good sense to evacuate the beach and head to the water as they approached. A small pack of unknown creatures coming straight at them? Yes, the smart ones got out of the way.
“Sia, now!” – called out Sarah as he held his axe before him and charged the wall
“[Stone to Mud]!”
The sound of a 200 pounds barbarian smashing face first into a concrete wall sent nearby birds into the sky, followed by the sound of said barbarian getting crushed against that same wall as the chosen one smashed unto his back, full plate armor and all.
The rest of the party managed to stop themselves in time, though.
[Stone to Mud]!
“[Stone to Mud]! [Stone to Mud]! [Stone to Mud]!”
From atop the wall, the roar of two dozen orcs roaring “Now!”in their own tongue sent the swampland birds into the air once again.
“Now?” – Krugo was so nervous he could feel his fangs tear through his lips, but he wasn’t scared
He was with his brothers, in their fortress, with Agran Avalancha, his hero. Their hero.
“Wait for it…” – Agran grumbled as softly as he could
“What are we waiting for?”
“We’re waiting for the lizards to stir the water. Now be quiet.”
“The prince says they’re swamp drakes.”
“Yesh well, the prince ain’t here now.”
All the brothers were there, crouching on top of the crenelated walls, wearing rags over their eyes to shield them from the mid day sun.
Agran peeked from the side of a concrete block.
Never peek from the top. That’s what he said. It’ll give you away. And for the love of the goddess, don’t ever take your helmet off.
The veteran stared calmly as the hero’s party charged at the wall.
‘Oh Darkness fuck me, they have a holy sword.’ – he cursed to himself. Never fun to fight a chosen one.
Chosen ones get pissed when you endanger their friends, and tend to power up at the last possible second in order to protect them.
Well, even so, he had taken his share of chosen ones to the face before. And this time they had the actual advantage, for a change.
As soon as the big guy (Agran guessed he must be a barbarian, and hoped to the dark goddess he wasn’t a weaponthane) hit the wall, he cried out “Now!” and stood up together with his brothers, bows at the ready…
This was all wrong. The spell had fizzled, and they were trapped between the lizards and the fortress wall. And it was a very solid fortress wall.
As the orcs stood up from behind the walls, bows at the ready and cloth over their eyes, Amanastasia thought this was wrong in ways unheard of. And then she died.
“Shoot the caster first!” – the ugliest orc any of them had ever seen shouted in flawless common
Dozen of black arrows shot at the stunned druid. There was no time to react, nowhere to run, nothing to do. The orcs bows were tensed with all the strength their big, muscular arms could manage, and when they released as one, the arrows pushed Sia’s petite body back several feet before nailing her to the ground.
That ugly orc had disappeared, probably crouched behind the wall’s crenelated top again, so Eliena shot whoever she could. It was then that the orc stood up again, and shot her.
“The elf! Shoot the elf!” – its voice marked her for death, and Eliena pissed herself.
“[Barrier of Light]!” – Rai was already in front of her, and the arrows bounced off the clear golden shield he had summoned before him.
“Wait for the shield to go down! He can’t move and sustain the shield!”
The monster knew. Goddess of light, that thing knew!
Sarah got behind the shield, next to Eliena. The elf girl was trembling.
“Hey, kid, not gonna heal your girl over there? You might still save her if you do it now, you know!?” – taunted the orc, but Rai knew that he’d have to lower the shield to do that
In all the excitement, though, it looks like everyone forgot about Ahab. The stealthy assassin was climbing the north tower, outside the orcs field of view.
“Look at Sia, look at the orc, but whatever you do, don’t look at Ahab right now.” – grunted Sarah
“I have him.” – Eliena recovered enough to lift her bow and aim at the orc – “Ready when you are.”
“Wait until Ahab strikes. That’ll distract them, then shoot, and run like hell.”
““Alright.”” – replied Rai and Eliena
True to their expectations, Ahab climbed unto the tower, loaded his crossbow, and descended the stairs.
Agran fell as gracefully as if someone had cut his strings. The bolt had pierced through his helmet, and its tip showed itself under his ear.
“Shoot.” – the veteran managed somehow – “Get ’em.”
Three chosen ones and one reluctant hero. It wasn’t a bad score for an orc. Not at all.
Maybe a fourth, if his brothers took down this one as well.
He knew the Goddess would embrace him.
And the Goddess took him.
The prince had a roof built over the top of the wall. The reason was simple.
In a world with flying monsters, you need protection from above.
That’s why, the assassin had to climb down, kick the door, aim and shoot within a moment before running back into the tower and closing the door from the inside.
Sadly, the doors had good, solid iron bolts. It had seem like a prudent idea at the time, thus they couldn’t chase once the door closed and the metallic sound announced the bolt was in place. The assassin climbed down the stairs and walked out the front door, completely unimpeded and outside the archers field of view.
Krugo knew he would kill that man. Kill him, or die trying.
They took a lot of damage in their escape. Amanastasia was dead, and while Rai’s magic could heal wounds, it couldn’t regrow limbs, and Sarah had lost a limb fighting off the lizards on their way out.
They all took at least one arrow, but by a miracle of the goddess, none of them died during their escape.
Ahab was unhurt, of course. As soon as he closed the door, he slipped into the shadows, and slipped right past the lizards, as noticeable and important as a drifting log.
Sarah held Eliena in place as Rai cut into her to dig the arrowhead out. She fainted, thanks the goddess, and that made getting the second arrow all the easier. She would be healed by the time she wakes up.
Sarah said nothing when it was his turn. The problem was going to be Rai. With Amanastasia gone, he was the party’s only healer now, and it was an off-job at best. There was a chance he’d faint and die while his friends tried to contain the bleeding.
Even so, they didn’t have the time to waste. There was a very good chance the orcs were already on their trail and closing fast right now, and running through the swamp with an open wound is asking for an horrible, feverish death.
“What do we do now?” – asked an orc no younger than Krugo himself.
“Why are you asking me?” – replied the young archer
“You’re the fast-thinker.”
The way Krugo saw it, there were two choices. He could either hole up in the stronghold and wait for backup, or he could go out and hunt that party.
It was one thing for a bunch of archers to shoot at heroes from atop solid walls and force them into hungry swamp drakes. It was a very different thing for a bunch of archers to go into the swamp and fight with them in hand to hand, and that red-haired brute alone was strong enough to punch a lizard unconscious during his escape.
But he really, really wanted to kill that human, and he knew the area better than they do. All he wanted to do was kill that thin human with the crossbow. Once he’d done that, he’d run like hell.
“You and you.” – he signaled two brothers – “Are coming with me.”
“What do the rest of us do?”
“Get whatever’s left of the beastkin, and prepare three pyres.”
“One for that beastkin, one for Agran.”
“Yes, and the third?”
“That one’s for me, or Agram’s killer. We’ll need it either way.”