Friday, October 21, 2016

Chapter 21 - The Horns of War

Dinner conversation was somewhat strained after that, as one might imagine. Still, we made it through the dinner without my having to strangle the Chancellor, so I’d call it a win.

When dinner was over, there would normally be dancing, and other such things until late in the evening. But we had orders, and so instead I led my crew out to the shuttlepad. Sanguine, knowing what was coming, ran ahead, and pulled a special package that Sanctuary captains always had on board. It was a tradition Daddy started.

Taking the package from my brother, I nodded at him as he rejoined the rest of the Family standing in two rows before me. I could see behind them more than a few of the guests from the party, who were curious about our odd behavior, and noticed the Empress, along with the Grand Duchess and Ambassador, standing on a balcony, watching us out of view of the people below. Good. An audience would only help spread the message of what was happening.

Unwrapping the package, I pulled out a horn made from bone, and engraved with the symbol of Sanctuary. On Earth, it would be seen as a hunting horn, or perhaps an old war horn. And there was a reason for that. I brought the horn to my lips, and blew. When the note faded, I gathered my breath, and began the rite we had all been taught long ago.

“VENATORI! The horns of war are now blowing! Arise, ye Hunters of Sanctuary! Fell deeds awake! The Enemy is at our gates! Too long have they tried our patience! Too long have they tested our mercy! Too long have they threatened our people!”

When Sanctuary was first founded, Daddy’s organization, the Venatori, created the customs of the world. One of those customs was the blowing of the horn and this speech, to be done by the commander whenever Sanctuary calls upon people to go to war. It reminded people that it was the Venatori that started the world, and that they were still Hunters.

“Now is the time! The blades of the Venatori shall drink the blood of our enemies, and none shall stand against us! The wrath of the Hunters shall crash down upon them like a cleansing fire, purging all who stand in its way!”

I was shouting now, wrapped up in the rhythm of my own speech, the blood of the hunters stirring in me. “We are the reapers, the bringers of Death! We are the Hunters, that track the vermin back to their barrows! We are the Venatori, and by our blades worlds shall die!”

“Rise, Hunters of Sanctuary! And let the Stars themselves quake as they witness the Wrath of the Venatori!”

As one, the Family roared a battle cry that translated well in all languages, “DEATH!” And then, as one, we entered the shuttle, and lifted off, leaving the nervous crowd behind.


On the ship, I was pleased to find that all the crew had returned as ordered. As soon as I hit the bridge, I opened a comm to everyone on board. “Listen up, boys and girls! You know that the Aprico Corporation has been pushing hard to try and get our tech, and doing things that are decidedly unfriendly to do it, too. We’ve just got word from Home. The Fleet is mobilizing, with the Harbinger of Death carrying the flag. Sanctuary is now at war with Aprico Corporation, and all those who try and hinder us in our vengeance!”

“Now, what’s that got to do with us? Well, you all know that the Void Traveler is special. You all know who the Owner is. Well, he’s calling us in, because he wants us to join the fleet, and get a piece of the action. So I want everyone checking their suits, armor, and weapons, because the Void Traveler is going to war! May all the Gods have mercy on the poor bastards, because we sure won’t!”

With a laugh, I flicked off the comm, and we set about the business of making our way back to the rendezvous point where the fleet would meet us. If we were playing at being a freighter, the trip would take us weeks. None of that this time. It would take us a few hours to get there, going FTL in system from jump point to jump point.

As we made the prep to jump to the warpgate, I got a ping from a personal comm that I was half expecting to get. I sent a brief message, telling the individual to meet me in my ready room in ten minutes.


Ten minutes on the dot later, I was in my ready room when I heard the door chime. The door opened at my command, revealing the people I fully expected to see. Miszo, Kialee, and Nita walked into the room. I raised an eyebrow that it was just the three, and said, “Adam?”

Kialee chuckled. “He’s on duty. I’ll catch him up when we’re done.”

I nodded, that made sense to me. “All right, I can pretty much guess what brings you here, since you’re all new to the crew, and most of you don’t know how Sanctuary does things. I might be a dictator on my ship, but that doesn’t mean I’m a complete asshole. Lay out your questions and concerns, and I’ll answer what I can, but don’t go whining to me or I’ll make you wish you kept quiet.”

Miszo just shook her head. She was still trying to get used to the whole ‘nonmilitary’ aspect of the command structure here, but she was coming a long way. “Guess I’ll start. What exactly is the Traveler’s role going to be in this war?”

I shrugged. “Don’t know yet. We’ll probably get some scouting duties, as well as all the other things you might put a corvette class ship to work doing.”

Nita, emboldened by my response, chimed in next, “What happens to our pay? We all signed on for a piece of the take from shipping jobs and the like, so what’s that mean for us with this war on? Not like we’re going to be running cargo to the war zone, right?”

“Ah, well, any non-Navy ship that joins the call to arms will get a stipend to help cover lost wages and the like, but the real money from this is going to be the prize money and plunder.”

Kialee frowned, not liking where this conversation was going. “So we’re pirates now?”

I made a cutting motion with my hand to silence the other two, who were about to interject. “No, pirates are scum who will take any ship they can, steal the cargo, sell the ship, and space the lucky crewmembers, raping the others and selling them as slaves. They don’t act by any nation’s laws, and the only thing they respect is force.”

“I guess now’d be a good time to explain a few things for you. It is against Sanctuary law for any ship belonging to Sanctuary to engage in piracy. If we did like pirates, and found some random freighter we thought we could take, and boarded her, then we’d be breaking Sanctuary law, and the penalty for pirates is death by impalement. Those aiding a pirate are sold into slavery, if they’re lucky.”

“Now, you’ve all seen us do some things since you came on board, so I’m sure there are questions. Let me lay it out. Pirates attack us, or we respond to a distress call from a ship under attack by pirates, we’re allowed by Sanctuary law to kick the everloving crap out of them. Suspicion that they’re pirates doesn’t cut it, we gotta have proof.”

“When we kill or take pirates, or anyone else that tries to attack us, we are well within our rights to space survivors, sell them as slaves, keep them as pets, or turn them over to the authorities. Any ships or cargo captured becomes ours by right of salvage.”

“The base we blew up was a pirate base. We knew that because we followed the pirate fighters into the launch bays, so at the very least they were aiding pirates that had attacked us, giving us the right to pursue and take them out. As you might expect, Sanctuary law has very wide rules for taking vengeance upon those who attack you. It is part of what keeps all our ships safe, in fact.”

I paused, and then said, “Now, all that only applies to pirates, mind you. If you’re outside Sanctuary space, you got to play by local rules as well as Sanctuary rules. You can’t get stopped by an Imperial cruiser in the Dremgil System, and expect attacking them and selling their ship to be OK. That’s going to see you on any number of people’s most wanted lists, and getting any Sanctuary protections pulled from you, for certain.”

“So, now we’re at war with Aprico Corporation. That means that is open season on all Aprico ships, personnel, and property, anywhere in the galaxy. It also means that anyone who attacks us attempting to keep us from reducing Aprico to a painful memory in the galactic consciousness is fair game, as well. Which brings us back to the bit about prize money and plunder.”

“Under Sanctuary law, any ship participating in an action with the Fleet is entitled to prize money from any ships, slaves, or salvage captured during the course of the action. And it isn’t a kill count thing, since putting corvettes against superdreadnaughts in that regard is stupid. The whole thing is totaled up and put in a single pot and then divided proportionally amongst the ships by crew size. That cut is then divided based on navy regs or the ship’s charter, depending on whether it is a navy or civvie ship. Don’t worry, we have some really smart computers that does the disbursements, and anyone caught cheating is dealt with severely.”

“But that’s just prize money. As far as plunder goes, well, Aprico’s space stations and ground facilities are going to have a wealth of material goods, intelligence, and more slaves, ripe for the picking. And when it comes to sending ground troops in, whatever a ship takes, they keep. And since Aprico controls entire worlds closer to the Core, there’s going to be plenty of plunder to be had for everyone. In fact, any freighters we capture will probably go right back to work hauling spoils back for us. For a transport fee, of course.”

Miszo looked shocked by this development. “What, just like that? You can be pirates as long as Sanctuary declares war on someone?”

“Ah, well, if Sanctuary gives us the go-ahead to loot and pillage, then we’re not pirates, but privateers. The concept is a pretty human one, I guess, but back when we were still just on Earth, sometimes two nations were fighting, and wanted to screw with the other’s shipping, but couldn’t divert Navy resources to do it. So they would hire privateers, and give them a writ to say they were acting as agents of the government. Of course, if the enemy caught them, they were still treated as pirates, and the writ only extended to enemy shipping. To give an example, if Sanctuary and Rithena were at war, we could attack Rithenalese shipping, but not Brekthal shipping. The difference between us and pirates is that we have a government backing us openly, and we have a limited choice of targets.”

Kialee shifted, still uncomfortable, but not showing the distaste she had earlier. “And the slaves thing? That’s definitely going to happen?”

I nodded, firmly. “Yes. Anyone from Aprico we capture will almost certainly be sold as a slave. Their leaders may face trial, depending on whether they manage to piss Daddy off any more between now and then, but there’s a good chance almost all of them will end up dead or enslaved, with the remainder running for their lives.”

Nita sighed. “So it really is going to be a war, then. How many has this been since first contact?”

I counted off on my fingers, “Well, there was the Contact War, of course. I don’t think we’ll count that bit with helping the Asguard, since we were just advisors. Two squabbles with the Kuprulu Alliance and there was that bit of nastiness with the Sopoigans trying to say they had rights to Sanctuary. So this will be the sixth military action in the last twenty years or so.”

“I guess it is too much to ask for a decade without war?”

“Well, we’re the new kids on the block. The Asguard kept a lot of people from causing trouble for us for years, but now we’ve stepped out from their protection, and are on our own. Some people considered our first couple wins ‘flukes’. Our neighbors have all decided it is much safer, and more profitable, to be our allies than our enemies. It is people from the Core or other arms of the galaxy that are having trouble getting the message. They’ll get it, in time, don’t worry.”

Miszo sighed. “That’s why your Father is mobilizing your fleet, isn’t it? To spread the message?”

“Almost certainly. Sure, they’ve pissed him off by attacking Sanctuary, but to bring the fleet, that means we’re going to be falling on someone like a ton of bricks, as an example to anyone else that thinks they can press their luck.”

“And what if they still don’t get the message?” Kialee looked as though she didn't really want to hear the answer.

“Then Daddy will be sending another species to keep the Kratuans company in Hell.”

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chapter 49 - Gaining the Keep


Advanced Class: Hexblade

Class Abilities:
+20 HP per level

Level 40: Mettle - +30% resistance to magic and elemental effects.

Hex (Passive – MAX)
All Melee strikes gain the ability to hex an opponent. Duration 60 Seconds. Up to 5 Hexes may be stacked on the same opponent. Stacked Hexes share the duration of the last Hex applied. Each Hex applies one of the following effects (chosen by Hexblade):
5% Debuff to one Attribute
5% Debuff to Armor
5% Debuff to attack speed
5% Debuff to movement speed
5% Debuff to one Resistance

With my choice made, I thanked the trainer, and turned to leave the shrine, my people following me. As I went, I checked the guild chat, and saw Lexichan and some of the others were back in Mylenoris after hunting down the undead, so I called them to meet me at the palace when I went to make my report to the King. I still had to give Lexichan her toy, anyways.

We made a fairly impressive group when we had all gathered, and made our way to the palace. We were almost fifty armed men and women in my train, half of them drow wearing slave collars. Lexichan, Raunaeril, Cookie, Bercilac, Ruva, and Athtar were there, as well as a few other guild members. Lexichan was pleased beyond measure to have the drow ranger, Kilyn Keltris, transferred to her ownership, already making designs on heading to the Underdark to explore. I noticed several guild members watching the enslaved drowesses with looks that could be politely called ‘hungry’. I expected they would go and work out some frustrations in the local brothels later on.

When we entered the throne room, I bowed to the king. He shook his head slightly, a bemused expression on his face. “Rise, Sir Darkmore. I believe you have news for Us? When last We saw you, there were only three others following your train. Quite different from what We see before us now.”

I rose, and said, “Indeed, your Majesty. Some of those you see with me are comrades from the worlds we Travelers have visited before we came to this world, trusted friends who have fought many dangers by my side in the past. The rest I have met upon my journeys here, a few friends, and more than a few enemies who fell under my power.”

“Before I begin my tale, I would first make an offering to the Princess Aravae.” I motioned, and Larrel Leokiam, the drow fighter, stepped forward, clearly displeased by the collar around his neck, among other things. “This Drow is a fighter of some skill, who may be used as either a bodyguard or however else the Princess sees fit.” The king nodded, and waved Aravae forward. It was a simple process to transfer Larrel’s ownership to Aravae, who gave me a quick peck on the cheek before returning to her place behind the King, her new slave in tow, eyes beaming.

I took a breath, and then began my reporting, first of my adventures in the Depraved Pits, then the fight for Ullelone Village, my fight with Kali, and then conquering the Scheming Caverns. The king looked grave as I described the fight with Kali, but merely nodded when I cautioned that Travelers were people, as any other, which meant the whole range of personalities would be present there.

The king nodded when I finished my tale, and said, “You have done many great things for this kingdom, Sir Darkmore, in quite a short time. Indeed, my advisors tell me that, without your aid, the undead would have caused a substantial amount of damage to the kingdom before they could have been put down. We would reward you for your service. Is there something you desire?”

I took a breath, and said, “Your Majesty, by your leave, I would like to take my guild and restore Lithaes Castle to the glory it had before the Scourge, and reestablish the town around it as a source for trade. Too long has the castle remained untended, leaving it open to the use of bandits and cultists.”

The king nodded. “Indeed, We have been considering what to do with the old keep since word came to us of the demon cultists you dispatched there. And as a Knight of the Realm who has three times now done great services to the kingdom, it is a fitting task for you to bring Lithaes back to her glory of old.”

He paused, and then said, “Sir Darkmore, We give to you this choice. Will you take up the mantle of Lithaes Castle and the surrounding lands, defending them and their people and holding them in trust for the Throne?”

“I will, my Liege.”

New Perk Unlocked!

You have been granted a fief by the king, and are charged with defending your land and the realm. You may claim taxes from those living in your domain, and administer them as you see fit, provided that your actions do not go against the King’s will.

+300 Fame
+10 Leadership

For being the first Traveler to become a feudal lord, you gain:
+200 Fame
+20 Leadership

New Stat: Leadership
While Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom are all important in a leader, there are times where strength of arms or other concerns take precedence. Regardless, a Leader must always be able to get followers to do as he wishes. Leadership is added into all skill and ability use when they involve leading, controlling, or inspiring a group of people pledged to serve you. For example, it will apply as a bonus when you are using a social skill to rally your troops before battle, but not when attempting to seduce a woman to your bed.

New Quest!

Claiming Lithaes Castle
The King has charged you, as a Knight of the Realm, to travel to Lithaes Castle and claim it and the surrounding townlands as your fief. The keep lies abandoned after a band of adventurers recently killed the cultists living in the dungeons beneath the castle. You may need to do extensive work in order to secure your claim.
Gain control of Lithaes Castle.
Allow others to claim the castle.
Ownership of the Castle, Lord of the surrounding townlands.
Reputation with Wyrmwood greatly decreases.

I blinked the windows closed, and bowed to the King once again.

After being dismissed from the royal audience, there was a brief discussion about the next steps, and then people began breaking off into different groups in order to prepare for taking the keep. We would head there the next day at dawn with all the guild members that were left in the city.

For me, it was a long day of moving from one place to the other to get my pets their advanced classes. Della picked the War Priestess route, which apparently boosted her combat abilities, giving us another person who could go toe to toe with the enemy, if need be. Severa became a Duelist, enhancing her ability to utterly destroy single targets, and focusing on speed and agility. Yukiko became a Meijikira, or Mage-killer, and gained a fairly awesome ability to slice spells with her sword. I was a bit envious, actually, because that sounded badass. Nithroel’s being a Blackguard and a half-Celestial unlocked a secret ‘Fallen Angel’ advanced class. Basically, it enhanced her ability to royally fuck up good-aligned creatures, though she still held her own against evil creatures.

Of course, we hadn’t gone up against too many good-aligned creatures so far. But killing people for their stuff generally works better when they are people no one will miss. As a guild, though, we’re building our power base, and soon we’ll be able to REALLY cut loose and have some fun. I could see myself leading Legions of Terror a few years down the road.

Speaking of which, Hrozne picked the Pale Master route for his Necromancer Class. It basically focused less on the general magic and debuffs, and more on controlling as many undead servants as he could. He even got a nice daily ability that allowed him to create a permanent undead with no costs. Sure, it was just a skeleton or zombie, but there was a big difference between a human zombie and a zombie created from the body of a troll, for instance.

Looking at my core team, it looked like this:

Zayn Darkmore
Incubus Male
Level 40 Hexblade (Warlock) / Dominator
Titles: The Executioner, The Sexecutioner, Corrupter, Master Chainmaker, Machiavelli, Dragonfriend, Dragon Consort, Slave Trader, Trophy Hunter, Harem King, Stud Horse, Undead Bane, Leash Lord

Della Smith
Human Female
Level 40 War Priestess (Priestess) / Ice Sorceress
Titles: Slave, Sadistic, Undead Bane, Devoted

Severa Rex
Human Female
Level 40 Duelist (Rogue) / Battledancer
Titles: Slave, Heartseeker, Shadow, Undead Bane

Kiyabu Yukiko
Kitsune Female
Level 40 Meijikira (Samurai) / Dark Paladin
Titles: Slave, Devoted, Unholy Blacksmith, Undead Bane

Nithroel Crana
Half-Celestial Elf Female
Level 40 Fallen Angel (Blackguard) / Priestess
Titles: Genius, Fallen One, Slave, Broken One, Masochist, Undead Bane

Hrozne Bosorka
Drow Elf Hermaphrodite
Level 40 Pale Master (Necromancer) / Death Knight
Titles: Elfslayer, Lichloved, Scholar, Spiderkissed

Not a terrible mix, all told. We were a little lacking on magical damage dealers, since my spells tended to be ‘battlefield control’ or ‘debuff’ spells. Hrozne’s Necromancer class focused almost entirely on debuffs (and some damn nasty ones, too), including some area debuffs, but they were short on direct damage. That left Della’s Ice Sorceress subclass as our only source of magical asskicking for area effects. Sure, she had some spells that fit that bill, but they were expensive suckers, and not spammable. On the other hand, she had some sustained wide-area debuffs that could paralyze a battlefield without costing too much. She was really good at that ‘Blizzard’ spell. It did some damage, but primarily it clouded vision, slowed movement, froze liquids, and reduced equipment durability.

Of course, that was more than balanced out, in my opinion, by the fact that I had three healers, three tanks, two DPS, and so on, all in just a six-man party. As long as we weren’t going out and trying to win a war all on our lonesome, we were in a far better position to take on most challenges than some other groups. For one thing, all my girls could at least hang in melee for a bit if they had to. No glass cannons here. Thinking about it, we were a team that was damn near perfect for hunting bosses and clearing dungeons. Well, so long as they were bosses like the ones we’d faced so far.

But I didn’t have time to wax philosophical about party composition and game strategy. We still had supplies to lay in for the trip to my new castle. More of the Guild was coming, having finished the quests they were on, and so forth. We had craftsmen in our ranks, but finding supplies in the wilds until the ruined town could be rebuilt would be problematic.

There was a bonus in this whole thing that I didn’t expect before. Seems that included in the lands I’d been given, there were a few potential income sources. Mostly the game and herbs from the forest, but there was also a nearby lake which should have fish, some farmland, and a couple nearby mines. Not to mention that, once the guild’s Enchanters and other craftsmen started working, we’d be a source for all sorts of magical goodies. And then, of course, there’d be the normal trade moving from city to city, and anything that the guild brought in… Yeah, we’d be fine.

Anyways, between my pets, the guild, and some wily (or just adventurous) merchant, farmer, and craftsmen types who wanted a chance to try and reclaim the old castle and town (and, not coincidentally, have a chance to ply their trade with little competition), we had three hundred people in our little convoy. As the size of the expedition began to become clear, it was decided that we would take another day to prepare. May as well do things right.

After tiring myself with my girls (and allowing some of the guild to enjoy the drow) I drifted off to sleep, only to find myself in the middle of what looked like a stone room filled with a white mist.

Now beginning the Trial of Ascension.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Chapter 20 - Rules of Engagement

State dinners are curious things, from an etiquette point of view. Normally, you would say that the people at the ‘high table’ (the main table out front where the ruler sits) would be the place of honor, and dignitaries not seated there are somehow lower on the pecking order, or even being shown disrespect. The truth, however, is often different.

Certainly I, as the leader of this little delegation, was seated at the high table, but the rest of the Family was spread out to the nearest tables (one at each). The reason is not to show favor or disfavor, however, but to allow for the polite conversation that becomes wheeling and dealing to take place. Certainly, if one of us had been placed at the back of the hall, we would have taken offense, but one couldn’t really get anything done if all eight of us were at the same table, after all.

I was engaging in small talk with the Empress (telling her about growing up as the daughter of a supervillain), when Technica sent me a message that appeared on my HUD.

Frosty, Mother just sent me a message. We can finish dinner, but after that, we are needed back at the ship. Uncle’s gone and decided to mobilize the fleet to teach Aprico a lesson after all. We’re to rendezvous in the Calderna System. He must be really pissed off: Mother said that he’s actually going to lead the fleet from the Harbinger of Death!

Well, fuck. All right, I’ll let the Royals know. Send a message to the ship cancelling shore leave for the crew. I paused, and then added, Oh, and I see you’re sitting with an Admiral. Give him a gentle heads up about our mysterious cargo, will you? Just don’t come out and say we were the ones who delivered it.


Looking back to the Empress, I smiled, and said, “It seems that things are progressing faster than I anticipated regarding Aprico.”

The Empress, along with Entara, Venta, and that Bouldershoulder guy, who were seated nearest me, perked up at that. It was the Empress that spoke, however, “Oh? Are you going to have to leave early?”

I shook my head. “Thankfully, we can remain long enough to finish dinner, but then we must return to my ship so we can rejoin the fleet. The Harbinger of Death and its escorts are mobilizing as we speak.”

Bouldershoulder eyed me suspiciously, “Do you mean to say that you are in realtime communication with Sanctuary?” That notion caused a couple eyes to widen, I assure you.

I shrugged in response, as if it were no big thing. “Not really. Web Mistress, as you recall from the war, has an ability that, among other things, allows for communication between devices. Her daughter is my Chief Engineer, and has similar powers, though not the range Aunt Crystal has. She’s gotten stronger since the war, and I honestly don’t know her maximum range, though obviously it can reach this far, for one-way communication.”

I saw Venta freeze at the mention of Aunt Crystal, but graciously ignored it, in favor of answering Entara’s question. “What kind of ship is this Harbinger of Death? It certainly is named ominously enough.”

“Ah, that would be our second superdreadnaught, and the new flagship of our external fleet. The Soulcrusher remains the overall flagship, but is dedicated to the home fleet. And, before you ask, Chancellor, I won’t be going into specifications of the Harbinger of Death, except to say that it is a Sanctuary ship, and is outfitted accordingly.”

Venta finally found her voice, and said, “A superdreadnaught armed with Sanctuary weapons? What will that madm—your father do?”

“Oh, you can call him a madman if you like. He might even agree with you, depending on his mood. But I expect that Aprico is about to be on the receiving end of a very robust demonstration of Sanctuary’s weapons technology, since they’re so keen on getting it by any means necessary.”

Bouldershoulder grumbled, “So, it will be war, then? The governments towards the Core will not take kindly to that.”

“I believe Father would tell the governments towards the Core to go fornicate with themselves, or he’ll turn on them as aiding the enemy. If he’s moving the Harbinger, then Aprico will have to do some serious groveling in order to come out of this with their company intact. They are laboring under the impression that they can treat Sanctuary as they do any other government. My Father wishes to disabuse them of that notion, in such a way that no one else gets the idea to do something so stupid.”

“So, just like the war, then?” The growling Chancellor was starting to get on my nerves.

“Actually, yes. Father believes that more lives are saved by unleashing such hell upon an enemy that it serves as a message to others that they should think twice before trying to offend him, or his people. If you did not get to witness his ‘demonstrations’ first-hand, I’m sure there are some here who might be able to recount their own stories from the war.”

An icy glare from the Empress shut the fool up, and quick. Looking to me, Venta said, “And your whole family believes that, then? That committing atrocities is the best way to keep you safe?”

I sighed, and said, “Ambassador, Princess, the truth is that while such measures are distasteful, and I personally take little pleasure in some of the more… forceful acts one must sometimes take, there is some truth to what my Father says.” I took a breath, and said, “Humans are what some would call a ‘young race’. We only recently started expanding past our home planet, and until the war did not even have a planetary government. There were wars and other fighting between members of our own race on a near constant basis around the world. In our history, there have been several great empires, which shaped our world, and their influence is felt even still to this day.”

“One of the great philosophers of leadership in our history was a man who went by the name of Machiavelli. He said that one should never do a man a small injury, because someone with a small injury will seek revenge, while a man who is dead will not.”

“When my Father was a young man, he had only just begun the life of a thief, a ‘supervillain’, as we would call his kind. He had contracted to do some work for a crime syndicate, not unlike the ones that currently operate in the Empire, to assist in an internal feud. It was a trap, however, and the people that hired him actually betrayed him in order to gain access to his DNA. Their goal was to give their men powers like my Father’s.”

“The experiment failed, causing a series of uncontrolled (and fatal) mutations due to the crude nature of the serum they used. But they still kept my Father prisoner, until he escaped. He wiped two local chapters of that syndicate off the face of the Earth, cleansing two cities of their kind, down to the last man. When he got to the head of the family that had originally betrayed him, he killed all the men of the household by impaling them upon shards of ice, and then forced the man to watch as he raped his wife and daughter for hours, before killing him. The women of the household were sold to a brothel somewhere that they would be quite popular, and never rescued.”

All three of the women squirmed at the mention of what had happened to the people who had crossed Daddy way back then. They’d also received similar treatment at his hands, because they were family and associates of people who had pissed him off, rather than any fault of their own. Chancellor Bouldershoulder, however, looked disgusted, and probably would have said something that would make me have to hurt him if I didn’t continue my story.

“In our lessons, Father always said that he only had to make examples like that a couple times, before people learned to never, ever betray him, or to target those he cared about. So he rarely had to resort to such measures, even entering a level of d├ętente with him and several groups, on both sides of the law. Of course, that didn’t mean people wouldn’t try to capture or kill him, especially those who were bound to enforce laws, but so long as he acted in a certain manner, such as striving to cause as little collateral damage as possible, they never engaged in truly underhanded attacks against him.”

“When the War came, Father drew on the lessons of two of the greatest empires our world has known, Rome, and the United States. The Romans had a saying, murum aries attigit, which translates to say, ‘the Ram has touched the Wall’. When Rome sought to conquer a city, a general was allowed great leeway to treat with the leaders, sometimes giving them settlements that were quite beneficial. But that was only until the siege had started.”

I paused, for effect, and to make sure that they all, including Bouldershoulder, were listening, before continuing. “Once the siege had started, once the battering ram had touched the walls of the city, then the attack would continue until the city was destroyed, their people slain, scattered, or slaves, and on more than one occasion, the ground made so that no crops would grow upon that land for decades. Because of this, many cities bowed to the power of Rome, rather than fight, and many, many lives were saved, on both sides.”

“It is the same with the United States. During the second of the great wars that encompassed our world prior to our venturing to the stars, the United States developed our world’s first atomic weapons, and detonated them over two civilian cities.” That got grim looks from everyone, even the obstinate Chancellor, since they could see where this was going. “Those blasts convinced the country of Japan to surrender, when an invasion of their home territory would have cause millions of deaths. Again, brutality saved lives in the balance of things.”

Finally, the Chancellor had had enough. “So anything is acceptable if it makes your life easier, then?” His tone was sarcastic, and more than a little scornful. I may need to teach him a lesson in manners.

Turning to face the man directly, I said, “So long as it serves a concrete purpose, that could not be easier gained another way, then yes. One of the other parties in that second great war was the country of Germany. They were ruled by a party founded on a platform of hatred and racial supremacy. During the war, they rounded up millions upon millions of ‘undesirables’, and sent them to camps where they were beaten, starved, forced to do manual labor, and killed in mass executions. The world united against them, and said ‘Never Again.’ Many times afterwards, troops were sent into foreign lands simply to stand between two sides who would commit genocide on each other if given half a chance, for hatred.”

“Father has, himself rather violently put down some people who still head beliefs like that before the War. Now, he makes sure people like that have no place in Sanctuary. There is no benefit to reckless slaughter or committing atrocities for the sake of hatred or even boredom, as some true crazies do. That is the difference between them and people like my Father, or me. Violence, even extreme violence, is a tool of our diplomacy. Some things require a surgical laser. Some things require plasma cannons. By using the plasma cannons when we need to, without hesitation, we find most situations require the surgical laser, if violence is needed at all.”

Entara looked at me, puzzled, and said, “If you’re so willing to use the plasma cannon, then why bother with the surgical laser?”

“Because plasma cannons get responded to with plasma cannons. When you open up with those, there is only one outcome: death. Either you die, or your enemy dies. So we prefer not to have to use them unless we are given cause. And to answer your next question, we have found that this method allows us to work within a framework of… conventions, shall we say.”

“These conventions grew out of the ebb and flow between law enforcement and organized crime on Earth. If you were running a criminal enterprise, law enforcement would try and shut you down, of course. But if you limit collateral damage, don’t deliberately attack law enforcement officers, keep certain things away from schools and other places children gather, and so on, then you can safely count yourself as being a lower priority than, say, a gang terrorizing a few neighborhoods, or a serial murderer. Most times when cops begin hunting whole syndicates (and especially the ones at the top) you either have an informant, or you’ve done something to make you quite a bit higher up someone’s ‘to do’ list.”

“Wars are expensive, and trade, especially in certain markets, is quite profitable. For Sanctuary, showing mercy is simply good business, so long as the other side remembers our examples, and treats us with respect.”

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Chapter 48 - The Next Step

It was a couple hours later (and almost nightfall) by the time we finally fought our way up to the surface again, clearing out the dungeon. Along the way, I picked up several more slaves. Most were females, for obvious reasons, but there were a few males in the group, two spellcasters, a fighter, and a ranger. The ranger I picked primarily for his underdark knowledge, and to give as a gift to Lexichan. The fighter I was going to give to Aravae as a gift (and as protection), since last time I’d gotten something for Esyae. All told, my ‘train’ had swollen to thirty, in addition to myself.

Considering our options, I decided that we would make camp tonight here at the entrance to the dungeon, and then we would take the portal to Mylenoris in the morning. That would allow us to make a suitable entrance, no doubt. Of course, the members of my party and my slaves would be fine, but there was one person here who might be in trouble if he walked the streets of Mylenoris, especially after recent events.

Looking over to Hrozne, I said, “So, what are your plans now that Kali isn’t going to be a problem any more? Will you return to the Underdark, or are you going to start exploring the surface?”

Hrozne shrugged. “The light bothers my eyes, but I heard on the forums that there was a way to adjust for that. There really isn’t anything for me back in the Underdark. Kali pretty well poisoned things for me, so I’d like to explore the surface for a while, at least until things settle down a bit.”

I laughed, “Well, I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track, but the surface isn’t too ‘settled’ at the moment, either. Seems that some crazy guy unleashed a dragon goddess and she went off to make the humans miserable until she got revenge on the heirs of the people who enslaved her.”

Hrozne snorted in amusement. “I’d heard about that. Guess things will be interesting, no matter where I go.”

I nodded. “Then come with us. You’re good in a fight, and we could use some more magic at our side. Plus, if you join our guild, your chances of not getting skewered the moment you step into any surface elf city goes up drastically. I’ve got a bit of pull around here, you see.”

“Of course you do. But then, you used to be Torgan, so why am I not surprised? Sure, I’ll join your guild. If you’re around, things are bound to be fun.”

I nodded as Hrozne accepted the guild invite, and opened up the guild chat.

Zayn: Hey guys, want you all to welcome a new member. Hrozne here is one of those crazy people that chose to start as a Drow in the Underdark, rather than on the surface like Lexichan.
Lexichan: Oh, really? Glad to have another drow around. I stick out quite a bit.
Cookie: I’ll prepare a welcome banquet tomorrow night!
Hrozne: Thank you for the welcome.
Lexichan: BTW, Zayn, we’ve hunted down all the zombies from Ullelone. There are guards stationed in the nearby villages, just in case, but I think we escaped the worst case scenario.
Zayn: Good. We shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that again for a long time.
Lexichan: No kidding, after you spanked her in the Demon’s Duel. Also, we’ve had a messenger from the King come and ask for you, once you get back to town.
Zayn: Oh, what’s this about?
Lexichan: A reward, apparently. Seems that the King understands that you’ve wiped out two big threats recently (the demons and the drow), so a reward is in order. I’m pretty sure he also wants some way to at least keep tabs on you, if not tie you down to Wyrmwood.
Zayn: So… land and title?
Lexichan: Probably.
Zayn: That works. We need a ‘home base’ for the guild, anyways. If we can get a good location, and get the defenses set up…
Cookie: Already planning to be a world power again?
Zayn: Hell, it was going to happen anyways.
Johnist: True enough.
Zayn: Anyways, I’ve picked up some new toys, so I’ll be distributing a few goodies when we all meet.
Ruva: Oooh, Presents!
Zayn: Lol. Nothing much, but I’ll be giving everyone a Slave Collar and a Thrall Collar. That will allow you to go and claim a slave and a servant. Just make sure that anyone you collar is either willing, or did something stupid, like attacking us, so we have justification.

I logged out of the guild chat, and left Hrozne while I went over to where my new slaves were kneeling (as I’d ordered them to). Stopping in front of Enania, I grinned a wolf’s grin, and said, “I believe it is time to show you why it is a bad idea to get mouthy with me, girl.”

Gritting her teeth, knowing what was about to happen, but not having any way to stop it, Enania obeyed my commands as I ordered her to stand, strip naked, and then turn around and bend over. She was looking directly into the face of Vashti as I removed my clothes, but couldn’t see, since I forbade her from looking back. So all she knew was that something had shocked Vashti and the other slaves quite badly.

Then, as promised, I shoved myself inside her tight ass without any lube, and the screaming began.


The next morning, I was quite relaxed. Enania, on the other hand, was still doing her best not to whimper any time someone or something touched her ass. So of course I had all the slaves give her a hard spank before she pulled on her clothes (and realized that a thong back was not good for times like this). But she assured me, with equal fear and resentment, that she’d learned her lesson.

Once everyone was geared up, I opened the portal, and took us through to the Dark Shrine in Mylenoris. We were certainly a sight to see, since the last time I’d been here, we hadn’t come in with a squad of drow slaves following us. I’m fairly certain I made an impression, as I saw one person run off, probably to spread the word.

The head of this shrine looked at me, and shook his head. “Wonders never cease, Sir Darkmore. I assume that all these are yours?”

“Mostly. And the one who does not belong to me has joined my guild, before we pass on through, however, there are some matters I’d like to discuss, as my battles have taken me to level 40.”

“Ah, then you wish to gain your advanced class, and find your racial advancement quest, yes?”

“Indeed, for myself and for those in my train who qualify.”

The warlock looked over my slaves, and shook his head. “The racial quest I can unlock for all those who are level 40, but most of your train will need to go to other trainers for their advanced classes, as they do not walk the path you do.”

“I understand. Shall we start with the racial quest?”

New Quest!

Trial of Ascension

When one has grown in power, the gods offer a chance for those who are willing to undergo the Trials of Ascension, allowing them to ascend to a more advanced version of the race they were born into. The Trial is different for every individual, and be warned that, once accepted, the Trial may never be offered again if failed except by decree of the gods.

Complete the Trial of Ascension.
Fail to complete the Trial of Ascension.
Race change to an advanced race based upon your original race.
Race change locked. Retrials not permitted.

I accepted the trial, and commanded all my followers to do so, as well.

You have accepted the Trial of Ascension. When next you sleep, your consciousness will be drawn to the arena where you will undergo your personal trial.

I nodded happily. That would solve a good many problems. Now, to check out the advanced classes available to me.

Warlock Advanced Classes

Based on your abilities and playstyle, the following Warlock advanced classes are available to you:

Twilight Master – A Twilight Master is an expert in dark magics. Through constant study, they unlock both Dark Magic, and the magics of the Nine Hells, allowing them to use devastating attacks.

Hexblade – For those Warlocks who wish to engage in close combat as well as magic, the Hexblade focuses on combining blades and magic. Though they are lacking in long range or area attacks, their Hex ability can quickly bring the strongest foe to their knees with crippling debuffs.

Demon Tamer – Able to summon and enslave demons to their will, Demon Tamers are some of the most feared individuals in the world. Though rare, Demon Tamers, like Necromancers, can change the shape of a battle in ways not even a Flame Sorcerer’s most terrible fire attack may do.

Demoncaller – A Demoncaller does not actually summon demons (well, not often). They do, however, call upon demons, and infuse themselves and others with their power, a painful (and permanent) corruption of their true form that grants great boons, but at a terrible price.

I looked up at the trainer (Althan, wasn’t it?), and said, “Can you tell me more about this ‘Demoncaller’ class? I have a good idea of the other ones, but I’ve not heard anything about Demoncallers before.”

Althan visibly paled as he heard my words. “You were offered the power of a Demoncaller? Yes, you seem to be gathering a great deal of followers, very quickly, so it would make sense.” He sighed, and said, “Demoncallers infuse their followers with the power of demons. This increases their strength and resilience, naturally, as well as different abilities depending on the type of demon called, so one might think it a great boon. But to do this, you must corrupt the follower’s form in a process that causes unimaginable anguish, and will forever mark them as something ‘other’ than what they were.”

“The risks to such a power are great. If you are infused with a demon’s power, you risk possession by that demon. In areas where the boundaries between worlds are thin, possession is almost a certainty. If you should ever meet the demon called upon in the flesh, the follower’s soul will likely be consumed, as it would whenever the follower dies, even the brief death you Travelers face. And then the demon will move in to the follower’s body, until they no longer have a use for it.”

Yukiko looked over at me, and said, “Master, that sounds… really bad.”

I nodded, and said, “And you said that this is a permanent effect? Is the soul the promised payment for a piece of the demon’s power, then?”

“Indeed it is. So one who has been ‘gifted’ by a Demoncaller will likely have great power in the world, but they will lead a cursed existence from that day forward, until the time that the demon finally comes to claim their soul.” Althan sighed, and said, “For some, the sacrifice is worth it for the benefits in pursuing their goals. For others, the choice is made for them when their Demoncaller master decides his path to power is more important than his followers. Few of those who are bestowed with power from a Demoncaller lead happy lives, and fewer still have no regrets when the demon comes for their soul.”

“Is there a way to gain the power without selling the soul of one of my followers?”

“You would need something the demon holds in equal value to their soul, most likely the soul of another. But remember that demons are tricky beings, and will try to subvert the follower anyway in order to gain two souls rather than just one.”

“Well, fuck.” What was I going to choose?

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Chapter 47 - Gates of the Underdark

Author's Note: So, double-post today. Got inspired (and had a good night's sleep) and couldn't stop writing.


Of course, decisions would have to be put off until the dungeon was clear. Sure, we’d killed Kali, but we skipped several floors, and all those enemies. Not to mention all that loot and XP. Whatever options we came up with, higher levels, more coin, and better gear were all good things to have, and would make taking the next step that much easier.

Of course, since we were deep in the fortress, the decision became whether we headed back up, or whether we found the Underdark passage first. That was actually a rather simple decision. I did not like the idea of an open passage to the Underdark at our backs, allowing who knows what to slip through so they could hit us from behind. So we began heading down.

There were more Drow blocking our path, but the girls and I were a solid team. Adding Hrozne and my new pets to the mix increased our effectiveness quite a bit. Sure, it would have been easier if we had someone with some AoE magic to blast shit, but once it became a melee, we were able to plow through several patrols. It wasn’t easy, since the fighters here were all several levels above us, but by this point we had equal numbers, if not an advantage in numbers in a couple cases. Plus, as always, I cheated. Severa and I moved in stealth ahead of the party, disarming traps and alerting everyone of planned ambushes. Of course, the soldiers here weren’t set up to defend against those seeking to enter the Underdark, but against enemies that might come from the Underdark. Their ambushes would have been extremely effective… if they were facing the right way.

As it was, we defeated forty drow on this level, mostly in groups of five to eight. Most of them were killed outright, but I made sure to slip slave collars on the women, so I now had five more slaves in my train. They, like Vashti and Enania, were none too pleased with that turn of events, but there was nothing they could do about it.

After I caught the last one, a window popped up.

New Title gained!

Leash Lord
Everywhere you go, you force people into bondage for your amusement. The more proud and beautiful the foe, the more likely they are to become a plaything of your will.

+200 Fame
+400 Infamy
Basic Slave collar now works on all humanoid creatures, regardless of level. Other creature types (such as undead, demons, fae, etc.) may require special collars.
All slaves under your control gain +100 to Defense.
Current attribute gains from Master Chainmaker permanently locked in.
Master Chainmaker will no longer add to your attributes when capturing slaves of the following types: Humanoid.
New slaves receive the stat boost from Master Chainmaker, regardless of type.

Ah well. What I was doing was, technically, an exploit, so I couldn’t complain too much, but it looked like I couldn’t get infinite stats any more for just enslaving a town. Too bad, but probably better in the long run. Relying on a cheat like that would probably keep me from seeing obvious solutions.

Finally, we reached the last room of the dungeon. It was a wide, open space, obviously meant to be the first point of battle against enemies should they attack from below, as we had to descend some stairs, passing three tiers on either side, with low walls at the edge. If this place had been manned with archers behind the walls, and soldiers to hold the stairs, they could have easily held off a force many times their number, even with magic involved. But the room was empty now, save for a monstrous creature standing before a pair of large, twenty-foot-tall stone doors, richly engraved, and inlaid with silver to produce a picture of the Elven pantheon.

The creature’s lower body was like that of a spider the size of a light truck, but his upper body was that of a drow, though larger than an elf’s torso would be. He was clearly strong, but radiated an aura of magic, as well. I knew without checking that I was facing my first Drider. Fuck.

Jasaam the Forsaken
Drider Male
Level 50 Dark Knight (Fighter) / Evoker
Titles: Forsaken One, Thrall, Elfslayer

OK, so this was clearly the final boss for the dungeon. Kali may have been a bitch, but she was merely passing through, or something like that. This guy, however, looked like he’d be a juggernaut. Especially since someone had found plate armor that would fit on a fucking drider. Must be a custom job.

Still, that ‘Evoker’ class had me more worried than his Fighter – Dark Knight bit. Evoker meant magic, and not the helpful sort. This was probably a class that focused on elemental magics, but without the singular focus of a ‘Flame Sorcerer’, or the like. Slightly less powerful, maybe, but much more flexible. I didn’t like that kind of thing in my enemies.

I charged down the steps, my blades in hand. “Close combat! We can’t afford to let him start casting spells!” As I charged, I attempted to use Dark Tentacles to restrain Jasaam, or at least limit his movement, but for the first time I was shocked to see someone resisting the spell. Jasaam was too strong for the tentacles to lock him down completely!

Still, it hindered him enough. The swing of his massive greatsword was slow due to the tentacles holding his arm, his aim off due to one gripping at his throat, his footwork foiled by tentacles lashing at his eight spider legs. I could dodge it.

Munsuraisa slashed across the man’s torso, but couldn’t get a purchase through his armor. If I was alone, this would be a very unfavorable fight. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Two arrows landed in the drider’s eyes, as two of the new slaves I’d taken used their skills with a bow to great effect, blinding the bastard! Then Nithroel used that hammer of hers to slam the sides of the spider body, causing a sickening crunch. Plate armor is great against slashing weapons, but even magic armor reacts badly when magic warhammers come crashing down on them.

I rolled under another swipe of the bastard’s sword, my actions carrying me under the drider’s body. With both blades, I lashed out, and managed to sever two of the four legs on the right side. The tentacles ripped the remaining two legs out from under Jasaam, even as he tried to launch a gout of flame towards my archers. But between his blindness, pain, and the fact that he was tipping over now, his shot went wide, leaving a nasty scorch mark on the stone that promised it would do far, far worse any of us it hit.

Jasaam crashed to the floor, unable to right himself from laying on his side thanks to the wounds I had inflicted, and the tentacles that kept trying to restrain him. Severa appeared by my side, her twin daggers carving large gashes in the drider’s (relatively) soft underbelly. The rest of us joined in, unabashedly attacking Jasaam while he was down. It was Nithroel, however, who managed to get the kill shot, her hammer coming down upon Jasaam’s head like it was a watermelon. The drider’s body twitched, and then lay still.

Breathing hard after what had been our most dangerous fight yet, I realized that I had become too used to fighting humanoid opponents. Humanoid opponents moved a certain way, and were easier to restrain than monstrous ones. I’d been punching above my weight class partly because of my cheat stats, but mainly because I’d exploited the ‘realism’ of this game. It would work against the monsters I’d fought so far, but against other creature types...

I shook my head. I’d gained a couple levels in the fighting to this point, and now had gained several more, thanks to the high level difference between our group and the boss. From the looks of things, by the time we cleared the dungeon out, we’d be at least level 40, which would allow us to grab our first advanced classes. That was something to look forward to.

First thing I did was check the loot. There was a good bit of coin, and some decent crafting materials once I sectioned the spider-body for parts, but a couple items caught my eye.

Darkheart, Blood Blade of Desecration
Sword (Greatsword)
260 – 330
Damage Type
Forged in the depths of the Underdark and quenched with the blood of dwarves, this legendary blade is the source of many legends throughout the Underdark. Those who wield this blade possess great and terrible power, and often are the source of great tragedies. The tales of this cursed blade are many, but all agree that a wielder of Darkheart is a force to be reckoned with in a fair fight.

+100 Attack
+1000 HP
+50 STR, +50 CON, -50 WIS
Vampiric – Regain 100% of damage dealt in HP.

Enchanted: Desecration – All divine spells 50% less effective within 50’ radius. All spells cost 50% more MP within 50’ radius. Does not affect wielder.
Cursed: Curse of the Forsaken – All races and factions turn to Hostile.  Gain Forsaken title. Transformed into monstrous creature. All effects are permanent until the curse is removed. May not equip another weapon until the curse is removed. If curse is removed, it is reapplied the next time the wielder equips this weapon.
Legendary Weapon: This weapon is a Legendary weapon, and may display other abilities based on the wielder’s abilities and level. Damage increases with wielder’s level.

Tormented Battleplate of the Knight
Heavy Armor Set
This armor has been created especially for Driders, and is impossible for any other creature to wear it. The armor was forged to protect a valued servant, but to keep them in check at the same time.
Requires: Race – Drider
Requires: Level 40

+500 Defense
+50 STR, -25 DEX, -100 Luck
Fortified – 50% reduction in Critical Hits
Cursed: Torment – Pain from all attacks +50%. This armor cannot be unequipped.

Adamantine Gate Key
This key is required to open the ancient Gates of the Underdark. Without it, while locked the gates will only open for dragonkind.

Can open Gates of the Underworld while this is in your possession.

Bond of the Forsaken
This collar is like a Slave’s Collar, but instead of enslaving the creature wearing it, this item turns the wearer into a Thrall of the creature keyed to this item. While this leaves the potential of rebellion, it also allows the wearer to use their full abilities and act on their own initiative, something slave collars often prohibit when conflicting orders are relayed.

Immune to Charm effects.
Thrall - +5 to all stats. Servant of the one keyed to the collar.
Cursed: This collar cannot be removed except by the creature keyed to it.

Soulprison Ring
Many are the tales of magic items possessing the soul of a dead warrior. While such things can happen by accident, they are usually quite deliberate. Rings such as this one are able to strip the soul from a victim and store it inside the ring, for later use as ‘material’ when enchanting. A soul trapped in this way cannot be raised, reincarnated, or otherwise manipulated unless freed from the ring, or the item they are Enchanted into is destroyed.
Requires: Enchanting – Advanced or higher.

Can capture the soul of a living creature.
May store a single soul.
Current Soul: Chareva (Succubus, Level 40 Seductress (Beguiler) / Rogue

OK, so most of those items I was in no way going to keep. The auction house could have them, and the funds would help secure the guild, since we didn’t have a vault to throw things in, yet. But the Thrall-creating collar gave me new ideas on how to increase my forces without gaining a ton of slaves. Thralls might be more likely to rebel (in that it was physically possible for them), but they had more flexibility in carrying out their orders. It was like indoctrinating or brainwashing the person into my loyal servant. Loyalty was always a good thing.

The ring, however, I immediately slipped into my inventory. I wasn’t far from Advanced in Enchanting, so once I got that, I could see what this succubus in the ring had to offer. I’m sure there was a story behind how she got trapped there.

But now, I had to finish clearing out this dungeon.

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