The fomor Hamelin loved human weapons.
“This is the legendary weapon [Magnum],” he told the manling while presenting him the silver-plated gun. “It was used by Knight Lee Oswald to kill King Lincoln at the battle of Pearl Harbor. It is like a bow that can pierce even the toughest hide.”
The manling, some self-righteous bounty hunter, looked at the weapon with fascination. “King Lincoln?”
“The King of America, the world beyond the sea,” Hamelin lied. “It is a land of weapons, where dragons called dinosaurs existed.”
Hamelin responded with a crooked grin.
One of his rats made noise while jumping on one of the back-alley’s trash piles. The manling turned around, trying to see in the darkness of the night; he had been on edge since the meeting started, wary of Barin’s watch interrupting them.
“Don’t worry,” Hamelin reassured the animal. His rats surveyed the area, keeping watch of the perimeter from the roofs. He continued the presentation as if nothing happened, although the manling remained uneasy. “Point, and pull the trigger. So easy, even children can use it.”
The piper approached his lips to the manling’s ears.
That was why he adored firearms. They were deadly and so easy to use, that an untrained peasant could kill a trained knight with it. The perfect spark for wars, revolts, and slaughters.
The more the manling listened, the more he looked like a bear having found a honeypot. He feared the bees, but the prize tasted so sweet. “Can it kill dragons?”
“Only the younger ones, and the eggs. It will hurt the bigger ones, but not kill.”
"The best way to deal with dragons is to smash their eggs and kill their young before they grow big and unmanageable. Just put [Magnum] in between their eyes, and pull the trigger.”
“Killing… kill their young?” The manling recoiled at his words. Why did the mortals always turn self-righteous when children were mentioned?
Still, the piper sensed this one just needed a little push to come around his way of thinking. “They don’t have feelings, my friend. They’re predators and thieves the moment they are born. Have you seen any dragon hesitate about burning houses with screaming innocents inside? Of course not. That’s why we have got to kill them every last one of 'em. It’s a knightly duty.”
That line always worked. No matter how hard they tried to portray themselves as mercenaries, adventurers always wanted to be looked up to deep down.
“Yeah…” Hamelin said nothing, letting the manling convince himself. “Yeah, you’re right. They’re literally monsters.”
“Greedy monsters. Once they just stole gold, now they even take jobs. They don’t care about you. It’s a tough world, and you have to defend your livelihood, right?”
“But what about the adults? If I-”
“We have the weapons to kill adults too, and we will handle them,” Hamelin reassured the manling, “But everyone has to do their part. Will you do yours? Will you rise up and seize the day?”
The bounty hunter nodded, taking the weapon. “You said you had others?”
“Plenty.” Although his stockpile shrank a lot faster than he thought. “I keep the best for myself and my friends. Maybe you will become part of the inner circle too, one day.”
“How much do you want?”
“I’m doing it for the cause,” Hamelin replied, giving him a letter. “But if you want more and better stuff, you have to prove your dedication. Capture young dragons with class levels, alive, and give them to our care.”
The manling took the paper, read it, then incinerated the contents with a spell to leave no trace. “It’s as good as done.”
“I only believe in what I see,” Hamelin replied. “Get results, and I will contact you again.”
The hunter responded with a sharp nod and offered his hand. Although the physical contact privately disgusted him, the fomor took it with a smirk.
Mell Lin, who preferred the nickname of the Pied Piper of Hamelin after his most infamous crime, watched the manling leave with the weapon hidden beneath his cloak. That deal went well, and hopefully, this one would succeed at slaying a dragon, where many of his kind failed.
If he didn’t, that meant one less manling to kill down the line.
Claimed were harder to bait. They had grown up with firearms, and while they recognized their potential, they lacked the quasi-religious respect their descendants had for guns and rifles. They always asked too many questions about where he got the weapons from, and he often had to silence them.
Most fomors were cold as ice, but Hamelin was different. Where his kind held nothing but apathy for mortals and considered killing them a chore, the piper had come to enjoy the good work.
He had toyed with mortals for centuries, in one form or another. Once, long before they learned the power of classes, he had come across a manling village infested with rats. On a whim, he took on a human shape and offered the villagers to take care of the problem, leading the rats with his pipe to drown in a river.
The manlings refused to pay him.
So Hamelin sang another song, and they paid the price with blood.
The fond memory made the fairy chuckle. Those were the old days when the Old Folk ruled over lesser creatures, and none but the dragons could challenge them. Then the mortals learned the power of Classes, and the natural order crumbled.
The fomors still had strongholds across Outremonde. They ruled Prydain, and held sway in the Dark Forest covering most of the world. King Wotan and Baba Yaga also ruled vast expanses north of the Winter Kingdoms, but they were too soft toward mortals. They let them live.
But these shallow kingdoms shrank every century, a decline which Balaur halted, but could not stop.
Would Mell Odieuse do better? So far, he liked his sister’s style, subtle and devious like his own.
One of his rat familiars crawled to him, Hamelin lowering his head to listen to his report. The piper had granted a mind to that beast, and unlike the bigger ratkin, the rodent remembered his place. “The paladin and the dragonling returned the bottle to Barsino,” the rat told his master. “He greeted them with a feast.”
“What about Mot?”
“V&V sealed him within his own bottle with a wish and ordered that he never get out again.”
That idiot. They would need magic greater than Mot’s to unseal him, and only Baba Yaga’s sorcery fit that criteria. Unfortunately, she despised the djinn.
Should they ask Sablar? The fomors had a loose alliance with that mercurial deity, but it was his high priest who caught Mot in the first place. “Can you steal the bottle?”
“No,” the rat shook his head. “Even if I could, we would surely be seen.”
Not a fair trade. Hamelin’s slaves had proven their value time and time again, while Mot had been stupid enough to get caught by mortals twice. He would have his rodents keep an eye on the bottle in case an opportunity to snatch it presented itself, but the fomor wouldn’t take any risk. “At least the tactician will not make any wish.”
“He was surprisingly happy with the result.” Hamelin’s eyes squinted at these words. “The paladin reacted the same way, so Barsino told her he had wanted to study the bottle’s design and then bury it in a place where it would never be found. He knew Mot would twist any wish he made.”
“The design, you say?” Hamelin quickly caught on. An artifact that could trap even the strongest of the fairies… of course, the famed tactician would want to study a powerful weapon against the fomors. He had survived more assassination attempts from them than that ‘Fidel Castro’ did on Earth.
Fairies had a long memory, and they never forgot a slight. Barsino had played a large role in Balaur’s defeat, and Mell Odieuse had marked him for death, like that paladin.
Especially the paladin. “What of Kia Bekele and Knightsbane’s niece?”
“Barsino welcomed the human with a feast and showered the dragonling with diamonds. She declared him her new best friend, and they laughed. The tactician said great games would be organized in their honor.”
This would strand them in Barin for weeks. Hamelin considered the situation, an idea for mischief crossing his mind.
A green glow briefly surrounded his thrall, as Hamelin’s vile spell infused him with a curse. “Your fangs now carry a dangerous disease,” the piper said. “Spread it to the mortals of this city. To their merchants and dignitaries, so they carry my gift across borders.
“Ugh, I hate the taste of elflings and manlings,” the rat complained. “But you can count on me.”
“You and your brothers keep an eye on all three of our sworn enemies, the bottle, and my catspaws.”
“Cat?” the rat glanced around, making Hamelin chuckle. “Master, please don’t scare me like that!”
“Do the work, and I will make you grow bigger than a dog,” the piper lied. He had learned the lesson from the beastkin; to never make his slaves too strong nor too smart, lest they get ideas. “Now go.”
His thrall fled the alley, carrying Hamelin’s gift with him.
His work done, the fomor brought out his dragonbone pipe from under his cloak and summoned a fairy ring with a song. A dark green portal opened before him, and vanished after the fairy lord crossed it.
As he landed back home, in his father’s workshop, Hamelin dropped his human guise.
His skin turned from flesh to rotten wood, crimson eyes opening all over it; on his shoulders, his chest, and his ‘hat’. His clothes revealed their true nature as parts of his body, his beard turned into tentacled roots, and his fingers became branches. Hamelin was an old nightmare, one of the horrors that made mortals fear to tread the woods at night.
When he arrived, the smell of oil and gunpowder greeted the piper. Giants and ogres worked metal under a twisted dark wood ceiling, fashioning steel armor, carefully breaking down earthling weapons into tiny pieces, or assembled the head of a new golem.
Hamelin’s forefather, the insectoid fomor Mag Mell, oversaw his thralls’ work with a craftsman’s attention. “Another layer,” he ordered his servants, each of whom he created in his lab. “A thicker armor with less impurities.”
“Thrice thicker, father,” Hamelin suggested. “Vainqueur blasted the chest apart.”
“Did you see it from your hiding spot, my son?” Mag Mell responded without sparing his child a glance. “I wonder.”
“Oh, I had the most beautiful view of your toy getting punched into scrap.” It had been like one of those ‘movies’ the Earth’s manlings loved so much. “I cannot wait to see how the next one fares.”
Each fomor was a lord on its own, with their own fief and servants, answering to no one. Only a mighty, charismatic leader such as King Balaur could shape these proud lords into a cohesive army, and only so long as he lived. The fairies felt no love toward one another, except a kinship as the supreme overlords of creation; even bloodline held little sway.
The downsides of lacking a soul. Love, humor, kindness... Hamelin could not understand these strange things the mortals prized.
“I too expect better results.”
Like a snake in the grass, Mell Odieuse had sneaked up on her kindred without even Hamelin noticing. The piper showed no hint of fear, greeting his sister with a tip of his hat, but couldn’t quite shake the dread she inspired.
As usual, she wore her human guise, infuriating her progenitor.
“Daughter, you displease me with this face,” Mag Mell said with disgust. Every mortal reminded him of the System he loathed with a passion. After all, he partly created it.
All fomors could create life, or grant intelligence to objects and animals. Mag Mell once crafted a magical dice, in an attempt to create an artifact that could tap into new forms of sorcery. On a whim, he also granted it a mind.
So Dice was born, and with a roll, brought the System to Outremonde.
To say Mag Mell had regretted that incident ever since would be an understatement.
For indirectly bringing the cursed System into the world and giving mortals an edge against them, the fairy lords shunned Mag Mell. Ever since then, the mad fomor had dedicated his immortal life to regaining his kind’s favor and bringing down the System.
None had studied the cursed Classes as extensively as Mag Mell, and his work yielded results over the centuries. The spell [Darkest Fear], meant to make sure mortals slept in the dirt forever; the Black Crests, traps that would twist men and women into abominations when they yearned for power; and countless monsters engineered to kill heroes.
When King Balaur approached him with a chance to regain his honor by assisting in his crusade, Mag Mell eagerly supported him. He fed Balaur potions to make the dullahan grow, grow, and grow until none could defeat him. They had become so close to taking back Outremonde last century...
Yet Balaur died, and Mag Mell fled in disgrace to fight another day.
But the fairies learned. Where brute force had failed with King Balaur, Mell Odieuse chose strife, division, and hate. Make the mortals fight one another, encourage a state of war unending, and then decimate the winners when they least expected it.
Hamelin preferred that approach to the old one. His kind called him a coward because he preyed on those who couldn’t fight back and ran when needed, but he called it intelligence. Good old Hamelin had bested many heroes in the past centuries, and he was still around.
Hamelin knew nothing awaited him after death. Having no soul, his body would dissolve into the soil from which it sprang, and all would go dark. That fear had motivated the piper for centuries, drove him to kill others before they could do the same to him.
Mell Odieuse ignored her father and cut straight to business. “Lin, report.”
“I distributed the weapons as you asked,” Hamelin replied. “Pulled a small prank on Barin too, but Mot is out for good.”
Mell Odieuse’s frown deepened as he gave her more details, while Mag let out a bitter hiss when he mentioned Kia Bekele. “What next, my sister?” Hamelin asked once he finished. “Do you need more weapons?”
“I will open the doors again on Samhain when my powers reach their peak,” the dark witch confirmed. It took a lot of mana to open the Earthgate, and so the fomors only used it for short trips. Not to mention the 'magical problems' on the other side. “But you will fetch me more than guns this time.”
“Your obsession with the Earthlings’ technology will be your undoing, my daughter,” said Mag Mell, who feared it. Enough that he never dare launch a raid on Earth since the manlings invented firearms. “Magic will be our salvation, you shall see.”
Mell Odieuse’s eyes turned disdainful. “Finish your so-called ‘masterpiece’ first, and then I will believe you.”
“Lin gave me the samples I needed,” Mag Mell replied. “Where you were found lacking, my new creation will succeed.”
Hamelin would have sold his pipe to read his sister’s thoughts, behind that cold face of her.
Mag Mell made Mell Odieuse from his own blood, but he fed her that of dragons all her youth. He even infused her with the bones of ‘Vainqueur’ that the adventurers brought them, hoping to create a powerful champion for the fomors.
He made Mell Odieuse powerful, alright, and cunning too. But she was no King Balaur.
The piper may have to blame his choice of agents for that. When Hamelin learned Knightsbane had returned, his fury at being tricked knew no bounds; and doubly so when he learned dragons gained levels. At least he finally got around to stealing Vainqueur’s blood, and that Cornelia died as a sweet bonus.
“In the meantime, you will finish the new iteration of the Talos Golem, until I agree with the final design.”
“My talents are wasted on this pointless task.” A consummate artist, the fomor would rather have moved on with another project after the failure of the first golem, but his daughter had forced him to create more while working out the flaws.
Mell Odieuse glanced at her father with cold dead eyes. “Is this defiance then, father?”
An uncomfortable, threatening silence filled the workshop, Hamelin noticing that even Mag’s thralls had frozen. The patriarch said nothing for several seconds, before finally answering, “No.”
“Then get back to work.”
“What about Knightsbane?” Hamelin asked as Mag Mell turned to oversee his thralls. “He knows.”
“I will not allow a dragon to become a god,” Mell Odieuse said. “Especially not Knightsbane. We have to destabilize his ‘empire’ before it becomes a new Gardemagne or gives the dragons ideas. I already sent Lucie to take care of them, and you will assist her.”
“We would not be in this mess if she hadn’t lied to Good Ol’ Hamelin back then,” the piper pointed out. His sister’s protection was the only reason that treacherous vampire still ‘lived.’
“So long as she is of use, you shall wait,” his sister replied, although Hamelin caught the not-so-subtle message. If the vampire failed… “Until then, you shall follow my strategy.”
The piper was nothing if not patient. His time for revenge would come.
Hamelin summoned another fairy ring, this time to the Nightblades’ stronghold of Noblecoeur, briefly glancing at his father chafing at his task.
Mag Mell feared the Earthlings and their weapons, but his daughter loved them even more than Hamelin. He thought his sister had the right idea, to combine their sorcery and the technology from Earth to gain an edge.
In time, when they had retaken Outremonde, they would cleanse that mortal nest. Cut their supply of heroes at the source.
No more saviors from another world.
“Lin,” Mell Odieuse interrupted her brother before he could cross the portal.
“You said Barsino wanted to study the bottle to trap us?”
“I do not see another reason,” he replied, “Why?”
“I have an idea,” the fairy replied ominously, a heartless, cruel smile forming on her face.
Even for a hardened killer, the sight chilled Hamelin to the core.