“It stinks,” Loid was the first one to point out the most obvious fact. We all turned to slowly stare at Loid. “What? I’m fine. It just stinks! And not just here, but this whole situation. And I can’t see anything.”
I sighed, taking off my other sword, but sheathe, keeping the sword inside. With a touch, the handle began to spread light everywhere, showing us a lot more than any torch could.
“Holy shit. What’s that?” Loid said. Alice looked a bit surprised as well. Only Aldrynte didn’t show surprise. I raised my sword more up, almost as if it was a torch.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I told Loid, giving him a wink, and began to walk forward. Others followed.
The sewers were exactly as we had expected. While it had roadside at both sides, the middle part was a deeper canal where the water was mostly going down. The sidewalks were also very tight, making it almost impossible to pass each other. We ended up walking two at each side. Me and Alice at one side, while Aldrynte and Loid at the other side.
But we promptly stopped at the first cross, leading to three separate ways. Left, right and forward.
“Shit,” I murmured, sighing. “This was the main problem I was expecting.” I turned to look at Loid. “I need you to send decoys everywhere, checking as much out as possible.
“That’s not necessary,” an echo reached us, as a figure stepped towards our light. The moment he became visible, we recognized him.
Qildor looked amused but still surprised. “You shouldn’t be here,” he said.
“Neither should you,” I said, crossing my hands. “I think sewers should be the last place to be in after all your companions died, don’t you think? But seeing that you don’t even have a scar, you never went there, did you?”
Qildor released a long sigh. “Oh, I was there. They would never go on a suicide mission without me. And someone needed to finish off the injured,” he said, a sharp smirk appearing at the edge of his mouth. “However, it seems you were also there,” he mumbled. "I'm impressed. Truly, I am."
“Oh, yes. I was there. I wish I could have stayed there longer, give all of them a proper burial. You know, your loyal elves. But after getting intel that something or someone might be hiding in the sewers, I needed to check this place out,” I said, casually, connecting the sword back on my belt. Everyone else was already in a battle position.
Qildor began to scratch his goat beard. “Which means” — he turned to look at Aldrynte — “I’m truly impressed. Beating your strongest natural enemy. But it also means that all of you are exhausted, and out of energy. Wonderful.”
“So, I’ll ask the golden question, are you also controlled?”
Qildor began to giggle. “You know, sometimes associates and companions have the strongest minds. Even stronger than a dragon. So, I needed to get rid of them. Everyone else, however…”
“Everyone else?” I mumbled.
“Oh, yes, Hiro. I didn’t mumble. Every other guard, protector, an elf, and almost every adventurer in this town, they are all… mine. And those few who remain, they will never be able to stop what’s about to come,” he said. "Even though, you stopping Alwine is a bit bothersome. She still had a part to play. Oh well.
"So to answer your question; no, I'm not being controlled.
“Why, Qildor? You’re supposed to protect this country. You’re breaking the contract as the first elf! Misery will follow you and your kind!”
“But I am not the first elf! I have never been one,” Qildor shouted, humor visible in his voice. “Elves haven't had a protector for a short time now."
I coughed. “Okay. Are you another fucking dragon? This is getting ridiculous. Suddenly, everyone is a dragon!” I said.
“No, I’m not a dragon,” Qildor said.
“Are you a shapeshifter?” Aldrynte asked.
“They don’t exist,” Qildor said.
“Damn, I knew it,” she mumbled. I looked at her for a moment, surprised.
“Are you under a potion or magic that lets you change shapes?” I asked.
“No. I’m in the exact shape you see me as,” Qildor responded.
Aldrynte sighed. “So, he’s under a control after all,” she said.
Qildor shook his head. “Nope. At least not the one you'd expect.”
“Oh, multiple personalities!” Loid suddenly participated in the guessing game.
Qildor visibly got annoyed by that. “No. But not that far off, I guess?”
Alice sighed. “So, you lost your memories and became a new person, becoming someone’s pet?”
“Qildor looked at us. "This is ridiculous. I won’t tell you!”
“Ah come on!” Loid shouted. “This was so much fun. Now we will never know!”
“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Aldrynte said, hands crossed. “Qildor is dead. It’s his husk, controlled by another entity.”
“Psh,” Qildor made some noise.
“I told you he’s being controlled!” Aldrynte said.
Loid nodded. “You cheated! You should’ve said she’s correct! And cheaters will get punished! At some point!”
One thing that I learned last month, is that Loid has some balls.
Qildor sighed. “You’re too carefree. I find that annoying.”
“Well, that’s because I’m with the hero,” Loid said proudly, looking at me. I tried hard not to frown. I was out of everything. Meeting Qildor like that without finding any proper answers was a bad thing. And obviously, he was really powerful.
“Why are you telling us all of this?” I asked, crossing my hand. "You could just stay quiet."
“Because it doesn’t matter if you know it or not. Tonight, the world will change. And I will own the world, as it is my destiny!”
I frowned. “Your destiny?” I said, looking at him.
“Hero. You’re really something, you know? You were supposed to be out of my way, let this all happen. You were supposed to keep playing, giving people false hope. And then I kill you, destroying the final hope together with you. But now I have to kill you right here, and right now!”
“Well, it’s my job to deal with monsters,” I said jokingly. But Qildor didn’t even blink.
“There’s no way you can win this time. You’re too late.” Qildor sighed, hand touching handle more properly. “You’re obviously not taking this seriously,” he said, a smirk appearing at the edge of his face. "So, let's begin."
I snorted, once. “Oh. I am taking this very seriously. But by playing the fool, I got quite a lot out of you,” I said, moving my sword out of my sheathe slightly. Immediately, the whole sewer tunnel was filled with light. By strength-wise, it wasn't even close to before, but still enough to take Qildor by surprise, and blind him for a moment.
Alice pushed her wand against the sewer water, freezing the water, and building a wall between qildor and us, blocking the way forward altogether.
“Go!” I hissed, running and turning left. Everyone followed.
“Hero!” Qildor screamed from behind the ice wall, hitting against the ice wall, breaking it slowly. The old good ice wall saves the day again.
“Are we leaving?” Loid shouted as we ran.
“No, we are taking a side tunnel that leads to the same place as he came from. It’s obviously the right way. I hope. Yeah!”
"What? Are you serious?"
We continued running forward, taking a few turns to the right, following the tunnel slight ascent.
“He’s behind us,” Aldrynte said at one point, panting. “But we are right now as fast as he is.”
“We need to figure out what he’s hiding if we want to have a fighting chance!”
“But what if we are not prepared?” Alice asked.
“We are not prepared!” Aldrynte fixed it immediately. “But we have no choice. If whatever it is is taking place tonight, we need to know what and act now. Think about escape afterward.”
“Aldrynte is right!” I said, panting hard. To be fair, my stamina has gotten a lot better after I became a hero. “Damn it, if Qildor isn’t really himself anymore, isn’t he still supposed to protect the elves as an elf?”
“No,” Aldrynte said, sighing. “We would have to select a new first elf, who will continue their duties. We would know that at some point. But until we don’t, they will suffer, but… It's a slow process, alright? It would take some time either way.”
“What are you talking about?” Alice asked.
“Can’t tell you!” Aldrynte and I said at the same time.
As we ran forward, my light began to spread into a larger opening ahead of the current tunnel. But as we got closer to it, we realized that it wasn’t a room. It was a created cavern in the middle of the tunnel, with a hole at the center. And as we stopped near to it, we realized that it was an endless pit that even light couldn’t reach its end. Or at least so it seemed at first.
“What the fuck?” Loid said. We all kept looking down. “This is… weird!”
“This is very unnatural,” Alice agreed.
“I wonder” — something massive below began to move, pushing themselves up, making all of us take steps back — “what’s down there…” Loid slowly finished his sentence, half whispering. The light from my sword showed us a dark figure making it's way up. But not climbing, as it was a natural movement. And as it got closer to the top, we recognized a shadowy face and body. I’m talking about hundreds, if not thousands of times larger body than me. And then I saw it open its eyes, pupils being the color of blood. As he opened his mouth, grinning, fiery whiff burst out from his mouth.
Memories of past pushed itself into my mind — the day when I killed the Demon Lord. But this right here was a lot larger, scarier, darker.”
“This is… really bad,” Aldrynte whispered towards us. “We need to get out of here, now!” she mumbled.
“What’s that?” Loid mumbled, looking at the face that finally reached up, looking directly down at us.
“That’s… a new Demon Lord. And he's... straight under Capital.”
“That’s… impossible!” Loid said.
A deep voice echoed throughout the chamber. “Oh. But it’s very possible." He turned to look directly at me. "When you ran away, Hero, I thought you were smart. But then you did the greatest mistake possible, you came directly to me.”
Qildor voice echoed from behind us. “Before you had a chance. But now you’re truly — what's the word? — screwed.”
Almost like continuing the first sentence, the demon continued. “Unless you give yourself to me.”
“And become Alwine?” Aldrynte asked.
“Yes,” the demon face got closer to us, looking Aldrynte really close. “Tricking that dragon to give herself up to me wasn’t an easy feat. But I assume that I cannot trick you. So, you have to be… willing! But I do hope you'll say no.”
I laughed. Not even responding to his question. “I wonder since when you had Qildor? I assume not that long,” I said.
“Around a month,” Qildor said, grinning. “He found me, down here. He did his truly best to protect the kingdom. However, he failed. I had no choice but to kill him. Too bad I can take bodies over and use them for my cause.”
“You sick bastard. You’re going to hell for this!” Alice shouted.
The Demon Lord began to laugh. “Right now, I’m the devil itself. This country is going to become hell!”
“I don’t understand,” I said, looking at him. “Why did you kill all the people? Why did you capture them? Unless…” I realized something.
“It seems you finally get it. Here’s a desert before you die,” he said, face moving even more slightly forward.
“Oh, I love when they tell me their deepest secret just because they think we're going to die,” I whispered to Alice behind me. She couldn’t help but chuckle. Such a cliche thing to happen.
“Today will be a celebration day. The lost will return. And they will be happy. That is until they get backstabbed by their own. Just thinking about it excites me.”
We all felt the horror. I had many theories. Undead? Maybe someone used bodies to strengthen themselves? Maybe some kind of horrible magic? But this…
“And then I will come out, and destroy what’s left of this capital. And the remaining world will look at it, with horror, as I, Valgrathan, will rule over the demons. And the others will walk to the wall, destroying it, while I — with my new human-demon army — will attack from the other side. And humanity will finally perish, together with every other species. You will hide again in your caves, hoping for the night to pass.
“This plan is… perfect!”
“Thanks for telling me about it. We can stop you now,” I said, touching my sword, ready to fight.
“You think you can stop me? Kill me? I’m stronger than any other demon lords. The one you killed is merely a puppet, compared to me. And even if you manage to stop me, or escape, it’s too late. You can only watch how the capital is being destroyed. But struggle with your final strength. You’re out of essence, aren’t you? Fighting against Alwine must’ve depleted most of your magic. And there's only four of you.”
I smiled. “We’ll see about that.” Of course, that smile was fake as fuck. We were screwed. Really screwed.
We could hear Qildor removing his two swords, grinning. “I guess it's time to dance,” Qildor and Valgrathan said at the same time.
I guess that was as much time I could buy for others to think of an escape plan.
“Before we kill you… I have one last question,” I said, touching my sword’s handle.
“What was your name again, monster?”
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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