In the morning, we gathered the horses and our new wagon, and set out after breakfast. Gadriel and the demon had both apparently hidden their armor and weapons, or were able to summon them from wherever they were, so they were both in prime condition, and ready for any fighting we might have to do today. The only one who didn’t look ready for a hard fight was our young dragon, but that was understandable, really.
As I expected, the first day’s travel was relatively easy. Bandits don’t care for striking too close to town, where patrols of the king’s guards might catch them, or their prey might escape to. Oh sure, a group of highwaymen might mug a lone traveler, or even a small group on foot, near a city, but it is harder to escape on foot than it is on horseback, and it is easier to lie in wait for prey when you’re not having to deal with being on horseback. No, any bandits who saw us, if they were connected to our targets, would run along warn the others so they could prepare a proper ambush.
It was a five day trip along the road to Blacklake. I expected to get hit tomorrow or the next day. This meant, of course, that tonight would likely be free for what I considered to be a key part of this day’s agenda. First, I needed to have a talk with the little dragon, so I called Deghu forward.
“Yes, Master?” The dragon was clearly not pleased at having to call anyone Master, but was smart enough to know that I could make his life miserable if I wished, while he did not yet have the power to resist me.
I reached over to the dragonling, and unclasped the slave collar around his neck. “Know that my name is Zayn Darkmore, declared by Mirelth to be a Dragonfriend. You are free now, Deghu, to go where you may. However, Mirelth has caused a great deal of trouble in this kingdom of late, so I do not believe you would find yourself welcome in these lands. Do you have any thoughts as to where you might go?”
The little dragon was stunned for a moment, but then recovered his wits nicely. “Well, that certainly wasn’t what I was expecting out of this conversation. I figured this was going to be another ‘talk’ like you had with the angel over there last night. By the way, the walls are really thin in inns like that.”
I laughed, and said, “Then I hope I gave people a stimulating night. No, this is not that kind of conversation. You truly are free to go where you will. However, you are young, and have yet to grow into your true strength. Tell me, what did you do before you were captured?”
The dragon curled up on the seat of the wagon, and cocked his head to the side in an equivalent of a shrug. “In dragon terms, I’m still just a hatchling. Still smarter than most humans, though. But I still have a lot to learn.”
“It so happens that I am lord of a castle and some lands around it, in the elven lands. You are welcome to stay on my lands, provided you do not harm my people, and aid in the defense of the keep and the land, should it be necessary. And there are some skilled mages there, who may be able to help with your studies.”
“And what is it you gain from this?”
“Beyond the prestige of having a friendly dragon living in my lands? Or the fact that having a friendly dragon around may make it less likely for angry dragons to think I’m colluding with their enemies?” I laughed. “Well, you are bound to do some kind of research as you progress as a wizard. I, and my guild, can help with that, and we would share in the bounty of that research. Beyond that, we would learn more about dragons, which is always useful, and about how other creatures use magic. I have the liberty of thinking of things in the long term, instead of being forced to consider only the present.”
Deghu nodded, and then said, “Very well, I will accept your offer of sanctuary.”
“Excellent! Now, this isn’t required, but joining my guild would give you access to more resources. I’ll send you an invite.” And with that, the guild grew by one dragon.
With that first bit of business taken care of, I turned to the second item on the agenda. Finding the demon, I commanded him to remove his equipment, which I stored in my inventory, and then lay on the ground, spreadeagle. I also commanded him to not speak, so I wouldn’t have to put up with his posturing or complaints as I drew sigils in the dirt around his naked form. Still, I decided I wouldn’t leave him in the dark. “So, truth time. I really didn’t plan on getting three new slaves when I stopped by market. And I have no interest in keeping a creature like you around. But you’ve still got uses, which is why you’re there, inside this ritual circle.”
“So, have you heard of Iaweasom’s Ritual of Demonic Life Consumption? Oh, I can see by your eyes that you have! Well, I’ll go over the basics just in case you’re not familiar with it. You see, this is a special ritual that can only be done when you have certain material components. First, you need a demon to serve as a sacrificial victim. Thank you for volunteering, by the way. Second, you need the virgin blood of an angel claimed within the past month.” I pulled out a vial with red blood in it. “Gadriel sweetly contributed this last night, as you may have heard from outside the door.” I noticed the angel blushing off to the side.
I uncapped the vial, and poured it out over the demon’s body. “Once the victim is restrained within a Ritual Circle, you anoint their body with the blood, as so. Now, I’m going to leave off the play by play for a bit, since there’s some incantations and such, but you know how the rest goes, yes? Those participating in the ritual give some blood to help empower it, and so on. Don’t worry, you’ll definitely still be awake when we get to the part where we will eat your flesh to absorb your strength.”
It was cute watching this demon, a terrible Pit Fiend, struggle uselessly against the bonds of magic from the slave collar keeping him in place, all in a futile attempt to keep an incubus from using a ritual created by another demon to steal his power. When I told the others about what the ritual would do, and what it required, I was surprised to see that the only squeamish one was the little dragon. “Mother told me demon flesh was poison to pure dragons. I’d rather not test it.” I nodded, and began the ritual proper.
I’m fairly certain that when Icestorm included the Ritual in the game, they never intended for players to get hold of it, or be able to use it. After all, the material components were insanely difficult to get. Capturing a demon was difficult. Getting an angel’s virgin blood was damn near impossible. And then you had to actually find the details of the ritual itself. That was, of course, extremely difficult to do, unless you happened to come across a grimoire with the ritual recorded. It so happened that the ritual was originally written down in my Soulbinder grimoire, which I had read cover to cover.
Of course, performing the ritual was an act of evil, no doubt. Even sacrificing a demon like this was not something that could be considered ‘good’. But while Gadriel might be hesitant to do it, the others knew that this was a world where power mattered more than anything else. If you had power, you could mold the world how you wished. If you didn’t, you were at the mercy of those who did. Ideals only mattered to those who had the power to uphold them.
Each of us partook of the demon’s flesh over the course of the next hour, leaving the demon looking like a pack of animals had ravaged him, but he was still alive. Now all that was left was to seal the ritual with a killing blow. I took out Balance’s Last Word, and plunged it down, piercing the demon’s heart.
You have successfully completed Iaweasom’s Ritual of Demonic Life Consumption! By completing the ritual, each participant will gain either a permanent bonus to one attribute equal to the sacrificed creature’s level. The results of this may mark you in some fashion.
You gained +100 to CHA.
Participation in the Ritual has given you a new perk!
Sentient creatures who gaze upon you become enraptured by your unearthly looks, even those who are, themselves, from other plans. Even gods mark your presence! Effects increase the more skin the individual reveals to watchers.
Increase to all social skills with enraptured people
Increased likelihood of gods inserting themselves in your affairs.
Increased likelihood of powerful creatures attempting to use you for their own ends.
You have killed a sentient creature with a sacrificial blade! Because this sacrifice was made during a ritual lasting at least one hour, you gain a permanent bonus to one stat based on the victim’s highest attribute.
You gain +50 STR.
I bit back a curse at the new perk. That was going to cause trouble for me, I just knew it, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that. It was probably a ‘lucky’ result of the ritual ‘luckily’ adding a hundred points to my most overpowered stat. But I shook my head, and reached out with the Soul Magic I had learned from the grimoire, trapping the demon’s soul within the ring that had recently kept the Succubus’s soul. (Said soul was now empowering a lovely trinket I had maded for Iqnora, since she was my seneschal, and all.)
When I looked at the others, I could tell that they each had received the ‘blessing’ of the ritual. They looked the same, mostly. Some looked stronger, healthier, and so on, each depending on what attribute they’d gained. I’d go through it later and ask them, or not. Definitely wanted to know if any of them had gotten a new perk out of the deal, since the ritual hadn’t mentioned that.
Slave Collar, Angelsteel
An improvement on the basic slave collars found across the world, this collar shows fine craftsmanship, and is made from angelsteel, rather than lesser metals. When in use, it displays the Master’s personal or familial crest, showing who the slave belongs to.
Cannot be used on creatures that are over level 250 at time of capture.
Angelsteel: Can be used on Demons and other Evil outsiders up to level 350. Can be used on Angels and other Good outsiders up to level 50
Ah, as I thought this collar was the opposite of the demonsteel collar I’d found back in the Pits so long ago. The existence of such an object was a simple reminder that ‘good’ didn’t mean ‘nice’ and that angels also got lumped into the ‘law’ and ‘order’ aspects as well. In other words, it wouldn’t be too hard to get some of them to make something like this in order to give ‘sinners’ a chance to ‘repent’ or ‘atone for their misdeeds’. The act is the same, but the reasons for it differ.
Ok, so I might have had some pent-up frustrations with the way lightsiders acted after spending sixteen years as Torgan. I had to deal with so many self-righteous zealots, both NPCs and players, that I almost went crazy at times. Probably would have, too, if there weren’t always groups of socially acceptable targets to take out my annoyance on. That undead invasion plot in WoD towards the end was a godsend, literally.
After we cleaned up from the ritual, we set watches for the night. Tomorrow, we would hunt bandits and undead. Maybe even undead bandits.