Timeskip- Two weeks later; Torga POV
Torga, Ayla, Lokir, and Noodle were traveling across the bridge; away from the capital. Torga had bided his time, waiting for the moment he was absolutely sure Ayla was safe before he set out on his next adventure... He was aiming for the 'Serpent King' evolution.
However, after talking with Fenris the night before he and his family left, Torga realized he simply wasn't ready to leave Ayla alone. So, he ordered the goblins to remain behind and protect her in his stead.
Of course, some of the goblins protested this decision and only agreed after several hours of trying and failing, to change Torga's mind. Hence why they weren't accompanying the group now; they were still sulking even after two weeks.
The most entertaining thing to happen since Torga returned from battling the dragons, however, was the human's reaction. While most of them celebrated Torga's victory, a select few knew exactly why he'd won in such a spectacular fashion... It was a threat, plain, and simple.
Upon returning to Asgarn, the queen was quick to agree to anything and almost everything Torga asked; If he wanted food, she had feasts prepared. If he wanted a room to sleep in, she gave him her own and she went to one of the many guest rooms. And if he wanted something to protect those he cared about from his own inability to control the 'Magic Eater' ability, then she was quick to offer a solution.
Namely, a piece of jewelry enchanted to keep the wearer's magic from leaving their body... Of course, this meant they couldn't use magic while wearing it, but it was better than nothing, right? Especially since Torga informed them of his decision to proceed alone.
Which went about as well as he expected it to go.
One week prior: Ayla POV
Ayla and Lokir were inside her 'room' at the castle. It'd been a week since they returned and everything seemed to be going Ayla's way. She and Lokir had already been on several 'dates' to the surrounding city and were planning more in the upcoming days... Well, if you could call walking around the city while your partner was almost constantly glared at by a Snake, a date.
Because she'd successfully formed a bond with Jormungandal the night before, he was very protective of her. He refused to let Lokir do anything but hold her hand ever since. Something that Torga highly approved of, apparently.
Speaking of Torga, Noodle had become something of a 'follower' of Torga's after they returned and he'd taken to copying Torga at almost every turn; he ate when Torga did, he followed along while he explored, he even slept when Torga did.
And though Torga seemed fairly annoyed about being referred to as 'grandpa', he never bothered to tell the little snake to call him anything different, so 'grandpa' it was.
Even now, Noodle was following along behind Torga, while he looked around her room.
Torga was currently holding himself up on the window sill, so he could so the lights of the city below and Jormy was...
"Grandpa! I can't see!" The little snake yelled after realizing he was too short to see out the window.
"That seems like a personal problem to me."
"Pick me up!"
"But, I wanna see too!"
Torga sighed and stared at the little snake for several seconds, then he lowered his head to the ground.
"Fine. Climb on."
Jormy yelled in excitement and quickly climbed on before Torga could change his mind.
"Up!" The little snake commanded.
"You're a mouthy one, aren't you?" He grumbled, then lifted his head into the air.
"Woah... It's pretty!"
"Yes, I suppose it is."
While watching the two of them with a small smile on her face, Ayla felt Lokir tap her on the shoulder.
"Mind explaining to me why the same guy who just destroyed a kingdom a few days ago, is calmly sitting in your room letting a small snake treat him as his own personal pony?" Lokir whispered into her ear.
Ayla shrugged, "It's the way he's always been."
Lokir gave her a shrewd look.
"Somehow, I doubt he's 'always' been like that."
"It's true, though. For as long as I've known him, Dad's always been gentle with children."
"Weren't three of the dragons he ate 'children'?"
"Okay, maybe I should've said 'humanoid' children, but the point remains the same; Dad simply doesn't like hurting kids." Ayla admitted.
Lokir turned away from her, "Just because he doesn't like something, doesn't mean he won't do it."
"That is correct."
They jumped in surprise and turned to face him.
"Dad, we were just-"
Torga just shook his head.
"No, your prince is right... for once. If it's for the right reasons, then there's virtually nothing I won't do."
"Like killing women and children?" Lokir asked derisively.
"If I must."
Lokir gave Torga a strange look after hearing his response; There was no snarky comment, insult to his character, or even the slightest hint of anger in his voice.
Ayla knew the reason for this, but as Lokir hadn't known her dad for nearly as long as she did, she forgave him for not understanding the signs.
"You're awfully calm right now."
"You expected me to rant and rave at you for your observation?"
Lokir had the decency to look away when he shook his head in the affirmative.
"I will not apologize for my behavior, Lokir; because there's no point in it. However- I may have been a bit crankier than I normally am, because of my hunger."
Lokir's eyes briefly widened in surprise, before they narrowed in anger.
"Wait- Are you trying to tell me; all the threats, all the insults, and the injuries to my person. Were because you were hungry!?"
"'Hungry' doesn't quite do what I was justice, but yes, that is the easy explanation."
"So, you didn't mean any of it?" Lokir asked after a few moments of silence.
"I meant every word of what I said, young prince. Hunger may do a lot of things to my mind, but it doesn't make me a liar."
Lokir grimaced, stood from the bed and walked over to the door.
"I'm going for a walk, don't wait up."
He shut the door behind him and left the three alone.
"Was all of that really necessary, dad? He thinks you hate him."
Torga stared at her for a moment, then he bent his head down so she could take noodle. The little snake eagerly went to her and snuggled as close as possible to the warmth of her body.
"I feel a myriad of things for him, Ayla, but true hate is not one of them. I 'dislike' him for being arrogant. I find him to be incredibly dumb, though that can be attributed more to his upbringing than anything else." Torga paused, "And I pity him." He finished.
"Pity him? Why?"
"I've seen the way the people of the castle look at him when they think he's not watching. I've heard their whispers, their snide remarks, and the way they laugh behind his back.
The 'imitation' they call him, 'The false Hero' they whisper. Do you have any idea why?" Torga asked.
"No- I... I don't." She admitted.
"Wait- how did you manage to overhear all of this?"
Torga glanced away from her, a 'sheepish' look on his face.
"You didn't actually think I would let the two of you scamper off alone, did you?"
He directed her attention to the ceiling of her bedroom, where a tiny gray creature was watching her with large beady eyes and a vacant expression.
It was a rodent of some kind, with silky smooth fur, large floppy ears, a small black nose, and six legs that it used to cling to the ceiling.
"You've been spying on us." It wasn't so much a question as it was a mild observation.
"No, I've been watching him. When the two of you were on your 'dates', I made sure to keep my distance, lest I lose my lunch."
Ayla gave him the barest of smiles as she held out her hand for the small creature. It leaped from the ceiling to her outstretched hand and wrapped its legs around one of her fingers.
She allowed the creature to fiddle with her fingers for a few moments before she looked up.
"Why tell me this now? I mean- you couldn've kept this to yourself for years without us knowing, so why tell me now?"
"Because Ayla, I'm leaving in a week."
Present time: Torga POV
True to his word, one week after their conversation, Torga was leaving Asgarn, Lokir, and his daughter behind.
"I still don't understand why I can't come." Ayla complained.
They'd finally made it into the grasslands just outside of Asgarn and Torga had asked them to stop for a moment.
"If what Fenris told me is true, then even if I wanted you to come, I would only be leading you to your death and I- I don't think I could handle that."
Ayla opened her mouth to protest, but Lokir's hand on her shoulder stopped her.
Torga glanced from the hand to its owner, then back to Ayla.
"Besides, until you decide whether or not you want to marry this idiot, you're better off staying here, where it's safe."
A slight smile graced Ayla's face, even as Lokir grimaced at the remark.
"You couldn't help yourself, could you?"
"Just remember something, Lokir. If you try and press my daughter into anything she doesn't want to do, I'll know.
And if you so much as think about having sex with her before you're married... Well, that eunuch option is still on the table."
Lokir hurridly withdrew his hand and stepped away from her.
Torga and Ayla talked for several minutes before he was finally ready to go and he turned away.
"Grandpa!" Noodle yelled from his place around Ayla's neck.
"I'll grow up fast and I'll protect Mama while you're gone."
"I know you will, little Jormungandal. I know."
"And don't get too comfortable on your throne, grandpa. Cause I'm going to be the Serpent King someday!"
Torga chuckled, "I'll keep it warm for you."
Noodle nodded seriously at him, "You better!"
Turned away from the three of them, "Now, how did it go again?"
A moment later, Torga spoke.
"I, Torga, do hereby invoke the right of succession and issue a challenge. Serpent King, I challenge you for your crown!" He yelled.
For a while, nothing happened- until.
|Your challenge has been accepted.|
Torga stared blankly at the gray box for a moment, then he shook away his stupor.
"That's a new color." He noted.
Because your challenge has been accepted, you will now be transported to the Serpent home system.
Goals- If you fail any of these, then your right of succession will be declined by the gods and death will be your only reward.
A portal has been opened to your destination, please, enter it when ready.
Torga waved away the window and looked back at the three for the last time.
"I'll be back for the wedding."
"You better be." Ayla said with unshed tears in her eyes.
Torga winked at her, then entered the Portal.
Torga groaned after reading the warning, then waved it away.
"Well, at least I shouldn't miss Ayla's wedding... Unless I die, anyway."
A few moments later, Torga was dropped out of the Bi-frost onto a frozen wasteland.
The sky was the color of amethyst, but no sun or moon could be seen in the sky- and yet, it was bright enough to see.
The 'neutral' zone, was marked by a circle of nine pillars; eight small and one large. Torga assumed this was to indicate the eight 'royal' serpents and the King, respectively.
Moving closer to the pillars, Torga noticed that each one had a name engraved upon its surface.
"Orochi, Amatzin, Naunet, Shabaka, Unger, Sereath, Rajah, Dragar, and Urosh, huh?"
He circled the 'neutral' zone several times before he finally settled in front of a 'small' pillar.
"I guess you're first." He said aloud, as he placed his head against the pillar and was instantly teleported away...