I pace quickly back and forth, three pairs of eyes looking at me differently. One is looking at me confused, the second with reverence while the other stares at me with expectation.
All three of these are centaurs, each dwarfing my size when standing. Luckily, they are sitting on soft furs so I don't have to look up to them when I talk. But that gives me little relief considering what Dragkenoss has told me.
“Why does it matter that we do not eat meat?” the [Guard Captain] asks, confused with the whole situation.
He isn't the only one. My entire plan is fucked up.
I stop and look at the three centaurs, sitting calmly in a room which is Dragkenoss’ home. Each of them have muscles, and I do mean muscles. Like, muscles that would make bodybuilders squeal like a little girl in ecstasy. I never noticed it before, I figured it was just the class.
But no, every freakin male centaur has bulging muscles. Muscles that make no sense!
“Meat has protein. Protein makes muscles. You shouldn’t be so buff eating goddam leaves,” I say, rubbing my head.
As if to mock me, Dragkenoss grabs a weird pear-like fruit and bites into it, completely relaxed, as though a great weight had seemingly been taken off his shoulders.
Annoyed, I call up his status.
Level 157 [Heavy Halberdier]
Level 52 [Herdmaster]
Dragkenoss is the current leader of the Black Rain herd, a herd which has been almost completely killed off. Those members which survived had left, leaving Dragkenoss as the only centaur to keep the herd's name alive.
Currently, Dragkenoss is the leader of the city Equus, a city whose sole purpose is to cut down the trees from the second level of the dungeon and to transport the wood to the third level.
Yup, this guy is another Zorren. Which means fighting him is probably a bad idea. I then call up the status sheets of the other two.
Level 81 [Guard Captain]
Damair is a herdless centaur who was kicked out of his herd after refusing his [Herdmaster]’s order to marry the [Herdmaster]’s daughter.
After his exile, Dragkenoss had heard about what happened and had taken Damair in, training the young centaur while protecting him from the influence of the other herds. Unfortunately, joining a herd is only possible through marriage. Thus, Damair cannot become a part of Black Rain.
Level 93 [Ranger]
Zoteal is an up and coming centaur whose level nears the second tier. He is in charge of his herd's hunting group as well as under the authority of Dragkenoss.
At least the other two seem to not be as bloated stat-wise.
“Ughhh, whatever. I’ll stress about food later,” I say, pulling my hair back before looking at the individual who easily fucked up my plans.
“Why the hell are you swearing goddam loyalty to me on our first meeting? That shouldn't happen! We were supposed to have a long talk about who I am, what I am doing and we were going to come to an agreement to allow me to speak with your leaders!”
The black-furred centaur chuckles, a relaxed smile still on his face. Seemingly more relaxed after every word which comes out of my mouth. Annoying really. I’m used to manipulating people. Tricking people into doing what I want. How the fuck am I supposed to do that if they're going to do whatever I want anyways.
“My decision is based on a long story. Would you like to hear it?” the centaur says, seemingly asking and hoping at the same time.
Immediately, the [Guard Captain]’s eyes widen as they turn to Dragkenoss, who only nods to the centaur.
“Fine, whatever,” I say as I move towards a corner of a room, sitting down upon a soft leather blanket that smells of old people hair.
One thing that happens in my summons is that I get old. Sometimes it takes forever, other times it's actually pretty short. And when I get old, I find amusement in the same way most old people do.
We tell stories about our lives and experiences.
It is what we have, who we are, and we like to talk about it to the younger generation or even anyone who would listen. And one thing that I have learned quite well is that older people tend to master the art of storytelling.
By which I don't mean that they are good at it. Very rarely are they good. What I mean is that they are able to tell a lot of stories. And this tends to show in the form of length.
Making sure I am properly comfortable, I fold my legs and place my hands upon my lap.
“Alright, I’m ready for story time. Hopefully, it doesn't take half a day.”
The [Guard Captain] starts to laugh loud and obnoxiously.
“He knows...haha… he actually knows,” the centaur says between laughs, his legs pounding on the floor with little control.
Dragkenoss groans before shaking his head. “Shut it Damair.” he yells through allowing a smile to grace the old centaur’s lips.
The old centaur sighs before giving me a critical look.
“I guess I can shorten it this once.”
“Um… should I be here to listen to this?” asks the rather silent member in this meeting. A centaur by the name of Zoteal.
The same one who, barely covered in bandages, was forced to accompany me to Dragkenoss’ home.
“Bah, it matters not. Most who actually care will already know my story. So just stay and listen.”
Zoteal nods, though is still unsure if it would be right to stay. After all, Dragkenoss had already heard Zoteal’s explanation about what happened with the herds and why they were injured. At this point, it would be proper for Zoteal to be sent back into the barracks to mourn the dead and to properly treat his injuries.
But Zoteal is extremely curious, as is probably everyone else who saw Dragkenoss, a centaur that has never yielded to anyone, to yield in complete submission to someone or something they have never seen before. Thus, Zoteal straightens out and wiggles his ears, turning his full attention to the centaur.
“Black Rain was a herd founded a long time ago by a large group of centaurs whose fur was black. The herd had a rule which only allowed members who also had black fur. A very stupid rule which, after several generations, was finally broken by none other than the current [Herdmaster] at the time. That [Herdmaster] had fallen in love with another [Herdmaster]’s daughter. A daughter who had completely white fur.”
Dear god, he's starting his story with the story of his ancestors! How is this short? How much farther back is his ancestors?
“These two were my ancestors.”
“It was their love which had sparked the change. A change that had started a feud. Many did not support such a thing. They have said things like ‘she is not pure’ and ‘she will bring our herd’s end’. But the [Herdmaster] ignored them, instead taking her as his wife and mating with her.”
“This caused her to become pregnant, which had resulted in further angering the herd. Many had wanted a new [Herdmaster] after that, stating that he was breaking tradition. But he had ignored their plea while doing his duties and having his most loyal [Soldiers] to protect his wife.”
A glint shines in the old centaur's eyes.
“And then everything changed when she gave birth.”
I roll my eyes.
“The offspring was also black furred, wasn't it?”
Dragkenoss’ eyes widen in surprise. But before he says anything, he shakes his head and instead continues the story.
“That is correct, the child was a black-furred male. The fact that the offspring shared the herd's colors had silenced those which were so against it. Their biggest fears were the destruction of the herd's ideal. An ideal focused upon the black color of their furs..”
In other words, black fur color is genetically dominant. Ok, figured that already...now... Where the fuck does he come in though?
“Many more offspring had come from the two and all had been black furred. It was then believed that the herd was blessed. That all will share the herd's colors.”
The old centaur chuckles.
“A herd which never allowed a different color into their midst changed very seemingly overnight. Women and men flocked to the Black Rain herd, joining in mass with open arms. Love blossomed and the herd became much larger, quickly rivaling in members to the most powerful herds at the time.”
“Unfortunately, things changed quickly as the new generation started creating offspring. The offsprings were of different color. They were no longer black. The blessing had ended. People were confused, angry even, but nothing could be done about the colored offsprings. After all, once you are born with the herd, then you are always with the herd. Color alone is not nearly enough of a reason to exile a member.”
The centaur sighs and looks to his audience, finding my face and the frown that must be on it.
“Soooo, when exactly are you going to talk about yourself or do you have several more ancestors in between?”
Damair snorts, doing his best to hide a laugh.
Dear god, he has more ancestors?
Dragkenoss gives Damair a scowl before continuing on.
“It was many generations after that point that I was born… after the political infighting, backstabbing and other heinous, dishonorable deeds had taken place. Deeds which has drastically weakened the herd in both size and political influence.”
Dragkenoss frowns, his eyes glazed of someone who is looking back in time. Into those earliest memories.
“I was born to the fourth wife of the current [Herdmaster].”
Fourth? Why do I have this feeling that the world seems to put me in a perfect position to fuck as many different species as possible… as many of them as possible?
“My mother was not loved-”
I mean, look at the Gejan. Their females choose a strong mate to impregnate them. I mean sure, they might become attached to a certain male, but most are more than happy to fuck and give birth.
“-Growing up was difficult. The other boys would bully me all the ti-”
And then there are the minotaurs who are all fucked by the leader, which unfortunately is me. But I have goddam standards, especially considering they stink and their vaginas can probably fit my foot in there.
“Training was difficult, but I was talented at it. My skill was far be-”
And now we have the centaurs who seem to have a polygamy thing going. One [Hero], multiple horse women.
“But peace did not last forever. Many [Herdmasters] wanted more power. More land. Mor-”
I wonder how that would feel. Like, I noticed that the females are much smaller than the men. It wouldn't be hard, especially since they seem to keep clean while also being quite sexy.
“-arguments around land rights started up. So much yelling. It was no-”
The big question is whether I have the length and girth for her to feel it. I mean sure, sizewise, it seems that it would be a pretty ok fit. Probably not super tight, but still relatively ok. Like that one [Healer] that looks more like a goat or the [Alchemist] which looks kinda like a donkey.
“But it happened on a specific day. A day that I was present at. It wa- are you ok?
Breaking out of my thoughts, I find a concerned look on the old centaur’s face.
Fuck my Libido
I quickly brush the drool from my mouth.
“Sorry, was thinking about having sex with centaur women. Please continue.”
It takes a moment for the old centaur to realize what I said before he shakes his head, unsure what to say to that statement. He looks to his right and finds Damair, fallen asleep. He then looks to his other side and finds Zoteal, listening raptly.
“And what happened on that day?” Zoteal asks, completely engrossed in the story.
Finding Zoteal so interested in his story, the old centaur smiles before continuing.
“Now where was I? Ahhh yes, the meeting. So as you know, the [Herdmasters] come together every ninety cycles to talk about trade rights, watering holes, hunting locations, planting locations, and other important decisions regarding herd life.”
So centaurs have trade?
“My father was the [Herdmaster] and he had decided to take me along to the meeting. Normally, he would take my older brother instead, but my brother was forced to stay back with the herd as his wife was expecting to soon give birth. Thus, I stood behind my father as his shadow.”
“Over a hundred [Herdmasters] were at the meeting, each carrying the insignia’s of their herd, waiting for the meeting to start. At the time, I did not realize how long it takes for the meeting to start. I stood there, standing for what seemed like a third of the day before all the [Herdmasters] were gathered around the [Speaker]. The [Speaker], an old centaur, far older than any of the others, would start the meeting with his voice. He would first welcome the herds for taking the long trek to the city of Berg. Then, the speaker would call up each [Herdmaster] to talk before the council, usually pleading for land or rights while explaining why their herd should get them.”
“This of course usually ends up angering other [Herdmasters]”
I can't imagine why...
“And if it does anger them, then those who are affected negatively would be allowed to speak to explain why such a change should not happen. Then, after the last person is done speaking, the herds will vote on whether the changes should take place. But, if the [Herdmaster] loses the vote, he can ask for it by right of combat.”
I perk up, finally hearing something interesting.
“Right Of Combat?” I interrupt.
Dragkenoss nods, “Right of combat is a fight to the death between twenty members of each herd against twenty members of each other herd which had taken offense.”
“In other words, one herd of twenty could fight several herds of twenty all at once.”
“That is correct. The right of combat is rarely used unless it would be only two herds involved.”
The right of combat. Hmmm...
“But this meeting was different?” Zoteal asks, wanting to hear more of the story.
“In a manner of speaking, it was not. Every herd followed the rules which were dictated long ago. Everything was normal except for when the [Herdmaster] Gladius, one of the three largest and most powerful herds started asking for more land rights. Of course, Gladius had angered five herds and was ultimately voted to not obtain the land.”
Dragkenoss shakes his head, ears fluttering angrily, “But Gladius announced a Right Of Combat. It was a complete surprise but was ultimately accepted. The combat was scheduled a month later.”
“And you were there too?”
“Yes, I watched the slaughter. A hundred Centaurs dead, all killed by Gladius himself. He was the sole combatant of his herd, the herd known as the Golden Hoof.
“That can't be,” Zoteal blurts out, “I was told that he fought with nineteen others and that they all died except for him.”
Dragkenoss shakes his head, “No, it was far worse. Gladius, covered in enchanted bone scale armor while wielding a massive halberd had single handedly wiped out a hundred centaurs, all of which were the strongest fighters of their Herd. Each with levels over eighty, three with levels over a hundred. All of them were killed.”
Zoteal sags with widened eyes. He turns to me, blinking, thinking…
“The defeated tribes were forced to move, losing their homes and the ability to request anything from the herds for a thousand cycles.”
So no vengeance? The fuck kind of tradition is that?
“So I’m guessing this Gladius guy kept taking land and calling for a right of combat while offering the losers to join his herd?”
“I see you understand politics well. I should have expected this already considering what she told me.”
“She? Someone told you about me?”
“Patience Quasi, we will get there in time.”
I roll my eyes but nod. It's the least I can do considering he swore his life to me.
“Many members of herds had left when the amount of land they possessed had decreased in size. Desperate, they had joined the Golden Hoof and were accepted with open arms. Gladius’ herd became larger and larger while he kept fighting these battles. The smaller herds were forced into unlivable lands while Gladius avoided taking land from the stronger herds. These stronger herds, ones which could field an entire team of fighters in their second tier class had chosen to stay silent. They did not feel threatened, thus they did not interfere in these battles. Unfortunately for them, Gladius could not expand further without interfering with the two other massive herds.”
“He requested all of their lands,” I say, starting to understand what is about to happen.
Dragkenoss chuckles softly, “Indeed.”
“This is the battle where the tyrant breaks the code. Isn’t it?” Zoteal asks, curiously.
A dark look befalls Dragkenoss. His face takes on a look of fear, of regret, of loss. Of a man who dreads his memory, a memory that cannot be forgotten. It is here where my mind stops wandering. My thoughts, usually erratic, especially if I am bored, are completely calm now.
I fully understand what the centaur is feeling. The feeling of reliving a painful memory.
One of death.
One of loss.
One of regret.
“Please continue,” I say softly, watching as the old centaur looks to me, a tear falling from his face.
“My herd was one of the ones which were also against the Golden Hoof. My entire family was there with most of my herd. We had come to watch the fight that is to happen. Over twenty herds against one. Most of the [Herdmasters] in the dungeon were there. They had traveled far to watch the fight. To watch what many expected to be the Golden Hoof’s defeat.”
“I had stood alongside my father and many of our tribe. We watched as twenty of our best fighters marched towards where the battle would take place. They wore our best bone armor, all adorned with out herd’s crest. Two of my older brothers were part of the twenty. Each in the upper eighty levels.”
Dragkenoss stops momentarily to wipe his face. His hand shakes while he does so.
“I remember standing alongside my father, spear in hand, cheering for them. We were expecting a complete victory. A third of our forces were all second tier fighters. It was an immensely powerful force. There was so much cheering. Yelling.”
“But… but… none of it mattered.”
Dragkenoss takes a deep breath, a breath with a hint of ghostly anger. Anger that has already died.
“Gladius arrived with a large group of his herd. Most were seemingly unarmed, looking as though they were just workers. [Farmers], [Alchemists], [Traders]; that is what we thought of them. We were confused at first on why several thousand of his tribe had shown up. But we didn't think much about it. We thought that Gladius was arrogant and wanted to show off his might.”
“Our two hundred soldiers formed twenty ranks, side by side. They stood strong, powerful, even when Gladius trotted forward. He alone stood against them, eyeing down over a hundred fighters. He lifted his glaive, a massive thing of sharp bone and claw. He lifted it into the air, waiting for the horn. A horn which the [Speaker] holds.”
“The [Speaker] was there. He held a horn, a large horn requiring two men to hold. He waited one by one as every [Herdmaster] told him that they were present and ready. Then the [Speaker] blew on the horn. A sound, an agonizingly loud sound was heard. It marked the start of the herd wars.
Dragkenoss shakes his head, eyes now downcast.
“Our two hundred engage, activating skills and rushing towards Gladius. Confident, powerful, a charge to be completely proud of.”
“They all charged? None used bows?” I ask, curious that I may have missed something.
“No. At the time, bows were solely used as a hunting weapons and only against monsters. It was considered cowardly to fight another centaur with a bow. A belief that Gladius did not share.”
“As they charged, Gladius lowered his weapon. And then the sky went dark as thousands of arrows came from the sky behind him. They fell in front of him, striking the charging centaurs. They couldn’t dodge. The arrows struck, many breaking upon the bone armor of those charging, but there were so many arrows. They found open joints, areas were armor did not protect. The arrows penetrating, killing some, others falling. The only ones who kept charging were the those few who were able to react fast enough to activate defensive skills. Skills that saved them. But those were few, especially considering what came next.”
“Those which seemed like [Traders], [Farmers], [Crafters] all parted, allowing a heavily armored and high level group to charge out. Over a thousand of them flooded out from the gaps. They quickly swarmed, slaughtering the remaining fighters, killing off the wounded on the ground. I was appalled, as were all of the other [Herdmasters]. They did not expect this. They watched as our fighters died, slaughtered like monsters. When the last of the two hundred had died, Gladius turned to us, to the [Speaker]. He pointed his weapon at us and yelled-”
“Charge. A simple word. One I will never forget. A word which was immediately followed by the yell Run. A yell which had come from the [Speaker], one which all have heard.”
“And so we ran. We ran hard and fast from the approaching fighters. But it mattered little as many of the [Herdmasters] were old. They were no longer in their prime. They did not have the stamina to continue running. Many of them collapsed. And when they did, the others of the herd would attempt to help. And those died.”
“My own father was old too. He was one of the last to fall, but before he did, he told us all to run on. To abandon him.”
Dragkenoss looks up, his upon his face is damp, wet from tears.
“I wanted to fight. I wanted to help him. Though he was a bad husband, he was still a good father. A father that I still respect. So I refused to abandon him. I faced those which came at us. My father begged me to run, but I refused. Seventeen of them had followed, each armored extensively.”
The old centaur chuckles. A dry laugh, one completely lacking in happiness.
“I greeted their charge with a yell. I activated as many of my skills I could. I charged at the leading centaur. He was several feet ahead. His lance was out, extended toward me. And just as it was about to hit, I swerved slightly, barely avoiding it while thrusting my spear out, finding flesh. I had struck him under the helmet, slicing through his throat. He quickly went down. I did not stop my charge. Instead I went for the next one, but I was not as lucky as he had a halberd which he waved from the side with unexpected speed. I attempted to block with my spear, but that proved completely ineffective as it cut through the wood, slicing through my leather armor, straight into my chest.”
“But I didn't fall. I stopped instead and looked behind me, watching as the wielder of the halberd continues past me, his weapon descends, cutting off my father's head. But I didn’t get to feel regret. Heck, I didn't get to feel much as then a spiked mace struck me on my leather armored head. And I fell unconscious.”
“You didn't die?” Zoteal asks, voicing my own thoughts.
A moving target with a spiked mace is capable of breaking bone rather easily, even through metal. Unless..
“You gained a skill.” I say, the only reasonable explanation I can think of to survive something like that.
Dragkenoss nods, “I gained a skill that day. Possibly after the first guy I killed. And that skill saved me. A rare skill called [Absorbent Armor].”
Hmmm. Jessica did say that you would gain skills as you level. But unless you know the name of it, you couldn't activate it. Which is why it is important to visit a class stone often. Which means [Absorbent Armor] is some kind of a passive skill.
“What does the skill do and what class were you at the time?” I ask.
“That is disrespectful,” Zoteal voices out, looking at me like I had just shat on his face.
“It is fine.” Dragkenoss waves at Zoteal, “Quasi here is similar to the Gejan which had traveled our lands recently. He does not yet understand our ways.” he explains, quickly calming the man.
Dragkenoss turns to me, a knowing smile forming on his lips, ”Though it doesn't matter considering he already knows our class after all. It has been awhile since someone had used [Advanced Analyse] on me.” the old centaur chuckles, enjoying Zoteal’s widened eyes.
“But I didn't even hear him activate it!” Zoteal says, “How did you know?”
“You understand aura,” I quickly say, getting a nod from Dragkenoss.
“Yes, she has taught me how to harness and use it. Even to protect against others.”
So he could have partially blocked my [Advanced Analyse] spell like Anathema did, but he chose not to. Possibly as a show of trust.
“What is aura. Is it a skill?” Zoteal asks, confused. He had never heard of the term.
“Something that she taught me on a whim.” he says.
She. Fucking old people and their cryptic bullshit.
“And this she person will be revealed later on in the story i'm guessing.” I ask.
“Of course,” he says confidently, enjoying the annoyed look on my face.
I shake my head, annoyed but not angry. I like to be cryptic as well. It tends to add a certain flair that I like so much. But I still despise it when it is used against me.
“Now then, my class at the time was a level 70 [Spearman] which luckily enough gave me the rare skill [Absorbent Armor]. It is a skill which is constantly active and allows my armor, regardless of what it is, to absorb great impacts at the cost of its durability. This skill sacrificed my leather helmet to absorb a great deal of the impact. Not all, but enough to keep my skull in one piece.”
That seems like a very powerful defensive skill. High durability armor would make him nigh indestructible.
“Anyhow,I had woken up during the following night. My armor and clothing were missing but I was still alive. Apparently they did not bother to check whether I was alive before stripping me of my possessions.”
“The following days after were difficult for me. I wandered, lacking clothes, water or food. The worst was that I had no idea were I was. Direction was something that I was lacking. But somehow, I wandered into a village. A village destroyed but not empty. The village of Cespir. A village dedicated to hunting monsters in the nearby mountain. When I entered, I probably would have been killed on sight if not for the fact that I was lacking in clothes and covered by dried blood. They allowed me in, questioning me, and I explained my situation. I had nothing to hide. They were attacked as well, but instead of fighting, they took their whole population into the mountain and hid. The Golden Hoof chased them inside, a good thousand fighters, but the mountain was huge with many winding turns and deadly monsters. The [Rangers] guided the population safely through, deep into an area that was both safe and large. Those thousand that had followed, most of them had died. They got lost inside the tunnels. They wanted blood, yet instead they were the blood. For two days, they had hid while hearing the screams of the Golden Hoof herd resonating through the cavernous walls. They had died and the monsters had feasted.”
“On the third day, they finally left the mountain, finding a destroyed village. And that was when I showed up.”
“They gave me water, food, even clothing, all of which were pilfered from the Golden Hoof corpses. I was finally armed. I wanted revenge. And when I told the [Herdmaster] of my plan to leave and fight, he called me a weak idiot.”
Dragkenoss chuckles, his eyes reflecting the light towards me.
“I was tired and angry. My father died. My herd may also be dead. So my emotions took over and I called him a coward. But instead of feeling insulted, the [Herdmaster] chuckled and told me to wait. He left and grabbed a halberd, a massive thing made of crystal and bone. He held it as though it were nothing. He challenged me. Said that if i can't defeat him, then I would just be running to my death. So I did what every emotionally unstable person would do. I yelled, raised my spear and charged him.”
“What happened next?”
I look to Zoteal, his eyes widened, posture forward, ears twitching. The centaur was completely entranced with the story.
And Dragkenoss was enjoying every bit of the attention.
“Well, I would love to say that I defeated him and was allowed to run off. But, what actually happened was that I was played with. I charged, he sidestepped, easily dodging my spear while he casually swings his halberd to the side, striking me with the blunt end. The force knocked me to the side. This angered me. So I tried again. And again. And again. I only stopped after my body was covered in bruises and I could no longer stand. I did not land a hit. My skills were avoided with ease, so I slumped and instead glared angrily at him even though at that moment I was most angry about myself. About how weak I am. He saw this and laid down his weapon. Then he came to me and sat beside me.”
“It was here that everything changed. He said I had potential. That I had the drive. So he asked me if I would like to train under him.”
Dragkenoss shakes his head, “I cannot remember what I was feeling when he asked. All I remember is that I had said yes. It was that day that I became the direct student of Cornelius.”
“[General] Cornelius? The one that defeated Gladius? That Cornelius?”
Zoteal sits back a bit, a look of bewilderment is on his face. “This is the first I am hearing this. I knew you served under him, but to be trained directly… wow.”
“It is not a detail I tell anyone. Few even know about it. And this was before he became a [General].”
Dragkenoss moves and grabs a gourd, picking it up and drinking water, all while Zoteal looks at the old centaur in a new light.
I on the other hand am bored. The story, though interesting, is needlessly long. The only reason I continue to even listen is because I have a feeling that knowing their history will be important, especially considering the class of [General]. An actual military leader class, one that I would need for my army.
“I trained under him for a thousand cycles. He trained me in his favorite weapon, the halberd. Under his guidance, I learned to fight, to move, to kill monsters within the caverns. My levels increased quickly. Eventually I reached level one hundred and was offered either the [Spearmaster] or [Halberdier] class. I of course chose the latter, especially since my favored weapon now was the halberd.”
“So you trained with him the entire time. What happened with the war?” I asked, confused.
Dragkenoss’ eyes widen after realizing he forgot to mention it.
“The war, right. Many centaurs were able to escape and warn the others herds. This allowed them to prepare and a coalition of herds was created. An army was formed, its size dwarfing Gladeus’ by several times. But such an army takes time to amass, especially considering so many [Herdmasters] had perished. An heir had to be chosen from those herds and then the heir had to organize as many fighters a possible. Lack of experience and planning made such a process take a long time, and Gladius used that time to pillage towns and villages, destroying entire herds while obtaining much needed supplies. Eventually, the coalition of herds, led by one of the highest level [Herdmasters], were able to stop Gladeus’ army, though at a great cost. Even though the coalition had several times more fighters, they lacked proper leadership, planning, but most of all, proper classes. Gladeus’ army moves together. They were organized, exceptionally so. It was only later, after months of war did they realize that Gladius had [Soldiers], [Lieutenants], [Captains], all classes which excel in large scale organized combat. It became apparent, after a year of war that Gladeus would eventually win. Battle after battle, the coalition lost, only being able to continue the war due to sheer numbers. They eventually became desperate, forced to take young centaurs, even women, into battle. The newbloods were told to become [Soldiers]. This changed the coalition, but it costed time and blood. As the war continued, more and more [Soldiers] were taken into the army. The battling leveled them quickly, causing many [Lieutenants] and [Captains] to show up. Eventually, both sides found themselves at a bit of a stalemate. The coalition had about three times more members than Gladius while Gladius had many more higher leveled members.”
“Months eventually passed. Hundreds of cycles. Less and less battles happened as both sides lost an equal percentage of their army. But everything changed when Gladius took the field. Something he used to do at the start of the war, but he eventually stayed away when the coalition would send enormous forces to attempt to kill him. But he showed up and activated a skill which he had gained from a new class. A class known as the [Herd King].”
“His skills strengthened those under him. They fought harder, better, and it showed in every battle he was in. He was winning. And thus the coalition was forced again to for more combatants. It was at this moment that my master had decided to finally join the war. He was asked several times by the coalition, but refused each time. He disliked war and combat. He did not wish to send his herd to die, which is why he refused every request. This of course was all due to the fact that he believed the coalition would eventually win.”
“It was only after he heard about Gladius’ new class did he finally move. He told me that a [Herd King] will always spell doom. That the class would cause a reckoning from the dungeon. He never told me the reason, but I eventually found that out from Her.”
Who the fuck is her!?
“Regardless of the reason, my master finally left his mountain home and I followed suit. When we finally joined the coalition, it was apparent to me that morale had plummeted drastically. Wounded [Soldiers] were forced to guard during the night. Arrows were made of only wood. Food was running low. Supplies were broken and needed mending. It was a clusterfuck. I was appalled. And so was my master. Se he walked to the head camp, found the [Herdmasters] who were leading the troops smoking from a bone pipe.”
“For all the time that he trained me, never had I seen him get angry before. He took one look at them and stomped out. He found a injured [Soldier] who was forced to guard and asked him where he gets his orders. Apparently, the [Captains] of the army were put in charge. There was actually no true leadership. That infuriated my mentor so much that he started yelling orders and he called all of the [Captains] to him. All of these were young men, those who had gained levels exceptionally fast and had had their classes upgraded. They were tired and lacked organization, forced to work alongside each other. So my mentor, in the loudest, most authoritative voice I have ever heard, ordered the [Captains] to march into the tent and to drag the other [Herdmasters] out by their tails.”
Dragkenoss chuckles, “But the [Captains] were all confused. They did not know Cornelius. All they knew was that he was a [Herdmaster] from another herd. So my mentor, annoyed, walked back inside the tent and literally dragged one of the [Herdmasters] outside by their tail. I’m not exactly sure what he said after. It was probably something inspirational which caused the rest of the [Captains] to follow his orders. Unfortunately, I was too busy laughing at the time over the fact that not a day had passed and my mentor was having the other [Herdmasters] dragged by their behinds on to the street.”
Huh. I’d love to meet this Cornelius guy. I like his style.
“He took charge of the whole army seemingly overnight while I was told to deal with the troublemakers.”
Zoteal chuckles, “Dragkenoss the breaker.”
“Ughhhh, don't remind me.” Dragkenoss says, his cheeks slightly turning red, “I hated that nickname.”
Dragkenoss shakes his head and turns to me, finding a confused expression on my face.
“The armies did not only have military classes. They also had many fighting classes, many of which had exceeded level one hundred. These men tended to disobey the orders of the [Captains], thinking themselves superior because of their class. My job was to make sure that they followed orders. On many occasions I have had to physically force them to obey orders. This involved breaking many of their bones. Hence my nickname.”
Does this make Dragkenoss named? Jessica did say that named people could fight armies. But Dragkenoss doesnt seem like he’s that strong.
“Now then, with my mentor’s leadership, the war shifted once more. He implemented new tactics, created fortifications, better armed the front troops. Started organizing the other herds which have been supplying food for the war to focus less on everything and instead on what will grow fast and last long. He organized transportation, duties, hunting of certain monsters for armor. Within a month the army was changed. Gladius was no longer able to win his battles as easily as he had usually. Long pikes were used to stop charges. Shields to protect against archers. Better armor, food, morale. All of it made a difference. Eventually, Gladius could no longer lead his army to attack as it would no longer be a good victory. Gladeus’ skill, though powerful, took too long to recharge. Gladius would attack, the coalition would focus purely on defending the attack and then they would attack back once the skill has ended. This resulted in both sides losing an equal amount of [Soldiers], not a great trade for Gladius.”
“And that trade became even worse when my mentor’s [Herdmaster] class upgraded to [General]. It was at that point that the coalition started their offensive. My mentor led the battle, activating several skills which allowed the coalition forces to overwhelm Gladius’. It was the first of many winning battles to follow, battles which I had joined myself. Many months passed, hundreds of cycles, all slowly killing off Gladius’ army. All of this came to the last and final battle.”
“The battle of King’s End.” Zoteal says.
Dragkenoss nods, frowning, his eyes downcast.
“My mentor led the attack. He led the entire army, practically everyone. I followed alongside him. His larger army smashed into Gladius’… and kept going. He did not stop nor did he retreat. He ran forward, leading the charge. I watched from behind as his halberd ripped apart the enemy army, killing several with each swings, barely even slowing down. Arrows fell towards him, many finding blood, but he ignored them. He just kept going, refusing to stop. He yelled skill after skill, bolstering his charge. I slaughtered alongside him, adrenaline pumping through my body. Moments passed and we finally reached the camp, the camp that Gladius was waiting at. He was ready for us. He yelled and charged. My mentor’s halberd slammed into Gladius’ halberd. They clashed, the wind whistled, ground trembled. A [King] and [General], they fought with impressive speed and skill. They seemed to create an arena around them, a place where none may interfere. Unfortunately, the several arrow wounds my mentor had taken were enough to slow him down. Blood seeped from his wounds, the intense speed and strength required to wield his weapon were opening up the wounds further. They were growing larger. He was losing and I wasn't sure on what to do.”
Dragkenoss takes a deep breath.
“And he knew that as well, which is why he took a gamble.”
“When Gladius’ halberd came from the side, my mentor did not either dodge or block. Instead, he jump towards it and swung. Gladius’ halberd cut my mentor in half, my mentor’s own halberd swung at Gladius. Gladius attempted to dodge but he was too overextended. His head exploded. Both died seemingly at the same time.”
Dragkenoss takes a moment, his eyes close as he takes a trembling breath.
“With their leader dead, the Golden Hoof surrendered. It was a victory, but few of our people cheered. Instead they mourned. My mentor had sacrificed himself to kill Gladius. The Golden Hoof herd was dismantled, the leaders were killed and the [Soldiers] either created a new tribe or went to existing ones. As for me, I returned to my own herd to find that the remaining members have left and my old home was ransacked of all valuables. I was the last of my herd. Most of my family was dead while distant relatives had left at the beginning of the war. I was the [Herdmaster] without a herd.”
“Wow,” Zoteal exclaims, his mind was completely blown. Never had he heard such a detailed story of the war. This was a firsthand account.
“Ok, good story. I would give it a seven out of ten. But what I want to know, before even you started telling the story is why you swore allegiance to me… and who the hell is this ‘she’?”
Annoyed that I did not comment about the war, the old centaur sighs.
“After the war, land claims started popping up. Many herds had been disbanded, others completely destroyed. After many decades, our population started to rebuild itself, eventually, other herds started wanting to take my meager amount of land. They stated I didn't need it. That my herd was only me. So when they requested it, I called in a right of combat. And I fought those herds and won. My training under Cornelius allowed me to defeat those twenty combatants with ease. Usually it was one tribe, other times it was many. Unfortunately, the [Herdmasters] started to fear me. They feared my strength. Especially when they heard that my class upgraded to [Heavy Halberdier], making me nigh immune to arrows when I was armored. So instead of attempting to fight me directly, I was poisoned and put on trial in front of the [Herdmasters]. I had supporters, mostly those from the war, but fear can make people do things they never would.”
Dragkenoss shakes his head, a disappointed look on his face.
“I bled and fought for these people. And instead of letting an old centaur live his life in his little amount of land, they found it better to end my life. Thus, I was brought before the [Herdmasters], some stating that this is against the accords, which it was. But most feared me. So they sentenced me to death. Death by poison. The executioner came, carrying a venomous claw, one obtained from a Marsh Scorpion. I attempted to escape my bindings, but they were woven tightly with bone mixed in. Though I doubt it would have mattered if I did escape. I wore nothing while over five hundred armored guards stood behind me. The [Herdmasters] did not want to take chances with me. And then, as the claw was to be plunged against me… she entered… and everyone stopped to look.”
Dragkenoss smiles, a new expression I had never seen before. A vicious one.
“She was the Matriarch of the Kitsune. She marched into the building confidently, powerfully, her six tails swishing in the air. Everyone had stopped, they all looked at her, but none could speak. It was the same as speaking to Cornelius. There was a pressure, something which could affect emotions. Except unlike Cornelius', she affected everyone, including the army. She had turned to me, curious, and asked what is happening. So I explained and she listened. Nobody else dared to speak. They seemingly couldn't. After I was done, she nodded towards me and turned towards the [Herdmaster], a smile on her face the entire time.”
“She explained to them that she had come to share knowledge with the centaurs. Knowledge before the dungeon, stating that the dungeon had changed. That we are no longer restricted to only our floor. Knowledge about magic, writing, language, about the world outside the dungeon. She created a ball of fire and lifted it into the air. It was amazing and mesmerizing to see. But then she said that such knowledge is dangerous without proper self control. That their fear was a hindrance. That it could have disastrous effects. Of course, the [Herdmasters] were attempting to explain the situation. That they fear another [King]. So she told them that if they want knowledge, then they must free me.”
Dragkenoss smacks his hoof on the floor hard, flicking his tail in anger.
“The idiots refused, some even saying that it may be better to take the knowledge by force.”
“So she laughed… and flicked her hand. The ground trembled and a geiser of fire came, sprouted beneath the [Herdmasters], killing most of them. I watched it all happen, the only warning was the slight glow of one of her tails. An orange tail with red stripes. Five hundred centaurs watched the whole thing. They were all responsible for protecting the [Herdmasters], and they had failed. A moment passed and what was probably a [Captain], had ordered the [Archers] to fire on her. So they did. And then another of her tails glowed, the one with white stripes. The wind immediately picked up, trembling with explosive force. All of the arrows were blown away. But the wind didn't die down, instead it sped outwards. Her tail glowed lighter and then a cyclone appeared around us, we were at its center. The ground trembled as the wind whistled, picking up everything around, including the majority of the army. They were thrown into the air. Most of the army had also been killed.”
“And as this all was happening, she came to me, cut my bindings and told me that I would be her guide.”
“And a guide I was. We travelled, moving from town to town, staying long enough for her to teach magic and writing to those that were curious. None of coarse dared get into her way. They had heard what she did from those that survived, so they made great effort to show utmost respect. It was thanks to her that we now have [Healers] and [Mages]. During the decades of travel, she had taught me how to use aura, a skill which had allowed me gain a great deal of levels in my [Herdmaster] class. And then she left, went back into her own floor above. I had asked to follow her, that I would swear my life to her. But she refused and told me that it was not her that I must serve.”
Dragkenoss looks to me, analyzing, watching, smiling confidently, “She said that I should serve the patriarch, a being that will come to free all of the species within the dungeon. That her goddess will make it happen. That it would happen soon.”
“So I am that person?” I ask.
I… probably am...
Dragkenoss nods, “I know you are. Your aura even exceeds hers in strength.”
The old centaur lays back, relaxed, unknowing to the war that is going through my mind now.
How much of this is planned? Did Loki plan this? Is this related to my fox tattoo? How did this dungeon change? What is the change? How old are the Kitsune?....
…I’m going to have to have sex with the kitsune…
A sound distracts me and everyone else. We all turn towards the third centaur. Damair sits, relaxed, sleeping upright, drool seemingly coming out of his mouth. And in front of him is food, veggie snacks. Food which is currently being munched on by a small, black hairy spider.
“Oh hey, its Peter.”