Monday, February 20, 2017

Chapter 64 - Blood Rites

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!

Infernal Charisma
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.

+200 CHA
+1000 HP
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.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chapter 35 - Shadows Gather

(Nightshadow Station – In orbit of Aprica III, Aprican System)
For ten thousand standard cycles, the Aprican System had been divided between two rival groups. The Aprica IV, the home planet of the Aprican species, was rare in the fact that the dominant species it had produced had actually split into several distinct subraces. Though all four subraces were gifted with powerful magic, they did not necessarily get along.

Best known in the galaxy at large were the Kalthas, sometimes called ‘High Apricans’. They were fair to look on, and typically had pale skin. The Kalthas were the most well known of the Aprican races due to the fact that they comprised the entirety of the Aprico Corporation’s upper management. When you talked with an Aprican administrator or manager, or when they came to enforce edicts of the corporation, you saw a Kalthas.

Unlike the Kalthas, the Grenvas were not fond of industrialized cities, and they often needed to be put in stasis for travel across the stars, as their constitutions were not suited for life in space. This, combined with their affinity for Nature magic, got them branded as ‘Wood Apricans’. Where Kalthas were fair of skin and had light colored hair, Grenvas tended to have more ‘earthy’ skin tones, with the darkest being a brownish color, and their hair color tended to be in browns and greens. They were rarely seen off a planet’s surface, but were well regarded as conservators of nature. A few famous Grenvas had joined terraforming missions to various new colony worlds, using their nature magic to help mold worlds to fit the client species.

The least well-known of the Apricans was the Aquinas. Their skin and hair carried blue or greenish hues, and they had gills on either side of their necks, allowing them to breathe underwater. This, along with their natural tendency to Water magic, gave them the name ‘Sea Apricans’. Honestly, most people didn’t even know the Aquinas existed, since they rarely left their watery homes at the bottom of the seas of any world Apricans colonized. Some few had spread into the galaxy at large, mostly as mercenaries. Adapted to living at the bottom of the ocean, Aquinas could withstand great pressure, and so were physically stronger and faster than their other kin.

But none of these three groups were present in the meeting room on the command deck of Nightshadow Station. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find any of the three races anywhere on the station. Even on Aprica III below, all three put together formed only a quarter of the world’s population, and yet they still outnumbered all non-Apricans on the planet by an order of ten to one.

Every group has its renegades. Sometimes they are petty troublemakers. Sometimes they are religious zealots. Sometimes they are freedom fighters. Sometimes they are outright villains. Regardless of how ‘civilized’ a species may become, there will always be those who fall outside the norm, and refuse to simply conform to what the others expect of them. For Apricans, this group was the Drvaki, the so-called ‘Dark Apricans’.

Compared to their more ‘respectable’ brethren, Drvaki certainly deserved the ‘Dark’ title. They were universally dark-skinned, more so even than the Grenvas, with their skin typically being some shade of black, which served to set off their white or silver hair nicely. But it wasn’t their looks that earned them the name Dark Apricans, but their culture.

Unlike the corporate structure the rest of Aprican society had adopted, the Drvaki still clung to their old clans, with a fierce Matriarchy keeping control of each House. Males amongst the Drvaki were little better than servants or slaves. Of course, even a lowborn Drvaki male was worth more in Drvaki society than one of the leaders of the Kalthas, to say nothing of non-Apricans.

Once, it is said, the Drvaki were like the Kalthas, fair-skinned like their cousins. But five thousand cycles ago, when Apricans were first journeying to the stars, the Drvaki attempted to wrest control of Aprica IV by force, to enslave their ‘lesser’ kindred. Of course, if you asked a Drvaki, they would tell you that the ‘Sundering’, as it came to be called, was the result of religious oppression from the rest of the Apricans, led by the Kalthas. The truth has been lost to time.

Regardless of the origins of the Sundering, the results are clear. The Drvaki fled Aprica IV, taking up residence on Aprica III, and claiming the planet for themselves. However, Aprica III was a harsh planet, with little life on the surface. So the Drvaki built great cities for themselves in caverns below the surface. The mana-rich atmosphere changed them, making them stronger magically, and better adapted to the dark world they had claimed as their own. But they never forgot their defeat, and never forgave their exile. Because of this, they were rarely seen as members of Aprico Corporation, but were known (and feared) in much of the galaxy as spies and assassins. Drvaki assassins were hailed as the best, and with good reason.

The group that was now gathered here were the ruling Matrons of the ten most powerful Houses of the Drvaki. Each of these ten women were ruthless manipulators, each with plenty of blood on their hands. One did not rise to power in Drvaki society (and one CERTAINLY didn’t stay there) without leaving a string of shady dealings and dead rivals behind you. The primary rule of Drvaki society was that one must never get caught. Even if you should kill the head of one of the ten houses, so long as you left no evidence leading to you, then you were in the clear. If you implicated another rival in the process? Even better! It was survival of the fittest, and the ten ruling Matrons were the head of the pack for a reason.

But even in this skarn eat skarn world off the Drvaki, there were some things that had to be dealt with as an entire planet. Thus, the Council of Ten was formed, allowing the ten most powerful Houses to come together to decide on things. Anything less than something that affected the entire planet was typically left to the Houses themselves to deal with, though not always.

Today, the Council had been called by Matron Yvonnel, of House Baenre, most powerful of the Ten. As was the custom of the Council, she rose, uttered a convocation to the goddess that had guided the Drvaki all these cycles, and began the meeting, getting straight to the point. Pointless posturing in the Council was not tolerated, even by the Matron of House Baenre.

“As by now you all know, the Kalthas have continued their attempts to gain access to Sanctuary’s weapons technology. Sanctuary’s leader has, apparently, taken their arrogance rather personally, and has declared war on Aprico Corporation, and anyone in their path.” A round of chuckles broke out as the Matrons considered the idea of a single planet taking on Aprico. Even if they disliked the Kalthas, they respected the power of Aprico as a whole.

Only Matron Malice of House Do’Urden seemed concerned, Baenre noted. That showed some promise for the ninth-ranked house, if their spies had uncovered the reasons for Baenre’s own concern. Turning to look at the other Matrons, she said, “Yes, I, too, would laugh at the idea, if I had not sent agents to that region once they came on the galactic stage. The reason for this meeting is I have concerns about the outcome of this war, and the Drvaki must decide their place in it. But it seems a bit more information must be shared before we begin. Do you all know the last time a starfaring race was intentionally made extinct through military force?”

Matron Alasse Venleth chuckled, “A hundred thousand cycles, wasn’t it? The ‘Warp-Demons’, or some such?”

Matron Do’Urden spoke, her voice cold. “Twenty cycles. The Kratuans, and it was at the hands of the very person now declaring war upon Aprico.” The room went silent as that knowledge sank in. A few had knowledge of the Kratuans, but events in that arm of the galaxy were of little importance here at the Core. This, however, was something different.

Matron Baenre nodded. “Indeed. The leader of Sanctuary calls himself Iceblade, and even if we should consider the entire history of the Aprican people, one would be hard pressed to find a match for his willingness and ability to carry out acts that would unite entire worlds against him. In addition to wiping out an entire species, he is personally responsible for the destruction of three entire fleets, the wholesale destruction of three planets that we know of, and ruining at least seven systems.”

“One of his first acts in the war that exposed his people to the galaxy was to travel to a neighboring system in a stolen craft, destroy or capture all the ships in system, and use all the orbital structures around the main planet as missiles, with great loss of life. This was to a group that merely allowed the ones who invaded his planet to pass through their space.”

“Hoh. That is an impressive bit, there. Pity that he is male, and human. He’d be a worthy foe.”

Matron Do’Urden shook her head. “Male or not, you may get your chance. Since declaring war on Aprico, he has smashed through all defenses. The only reason we have not yet seen him in Aprican space is because his fleet paused to allow groups to ravage the Komt and Illyians. From what my spies have found, both species have been hit hard. The Komt have lost several key research facilities, and all technical data contained there. The Illyians, on the other hand, have lost an estimated thirty percent of their merchant fleet, and Prukyb VII was wiped out. Not only was there massive loss of life, but the entire liquid assets of the planet, every credit in every bank account accessible by anyone on the surface of the planet, was drained, with a note left behind stating that it was for ‘War Reparations’.”

Matron Faylen of House Ulazana picked up on things a step quicker than her fellows. “And there is no reason to believe that this man will simply stop with besting the other three species of the Corporation. They will come to Aprica itself?”

Matron Baenre nodded. “That is what I believe. They have yet to meet the Aprican magitek ships in more than a few skirmishes, but these people are determined, and they are ruthless. They have stated that their intent is to make such an example of Aprico, so that no one tries to attack them in the future. The last time this man made an example of someone, several stars were forced to prematurely go nova, wiping out entire systems. I am sure one can see why this would concern the Drvaki, despite being a case of Kalthan arrogance coming back to bite them.”

“As I see it, the choices we have are thus: we can aid the Kalthas as best we can against these upstarts; we can attempt to play both sides, aiding both the Kalthas and the Humans; we can attempt to remain out of the conflict, letting the Kalthas and Humans know we have no intention of interfering; or we can aid the Humans in defeating the Kalthas.”

“Deal with both sides, and you risk getting caught between them.”

“Staying out of it is safest, but there is no gain for us there.”

“Agreed. We must either pick a side, or attempt to play both, and hope that these humans don’t catch on. The Kalthas will expect it, no doubt.”

“My agents suggest that these Humans would expect it, as well. The Kalthans attempted to insert an Operative into their fleet, but he was captured and killed before they managed to leave the system they made contact in.”

Matron Do’Urden leaned forward, and said, “What if we proceed as Houses, rather than as the Council? The Houses may engage the Humans and the Kalthans as they see fit, and that should keep any kind of unified response from hitting Aprica III.”

“Agreed. House Grecyne supports the suggestion of House Do’Urden in this matter.”

“House Ulazana agrees.”

“House Venleth concurs.”

“House Virrie will support this.”

“House Dathrya agrees.”

“House Magsandoral agrees.”

“House Chaesatra votes yes.”

“House Inamaris says yes.”

Matron Baenre nodded slowly, before intoning, “House Baenre agrees. As all Ten Houses of the Council have agreed, let it be known to the heads of all Houses major and minor that they may engage with the Humans and the Kalthas as they see fit. Further, any conflicts of status between Houses shall be held in abeyance until two cycles have passed from the end of the war between Aprico and the Humans.” That point was a key consideration. Not having to worry about wars of status temporarily would allow the Houses to devote more energy to the various efforts, but it was not a long enough time that a House which overextended itself or backed the losing side in the conflict would be certain of recovering completely before rivals could set upon them.

Either way, the Human-Aprico war would be profitable for the Drvaki.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chapter 63 - I Deserved That

So I hadn’t been expecting an attack just as I walked in the door. Foolish, I know, but fortunately, the ice spear did nothing except shatter on my face. Well, it took out my Nether Shield, which at this point could prevent a full 1000 points of damage before breaking, so I wouldn’t say it wasn’t a good effort on the caster’s part.

I quickly reapplied my Nether Shield, and looked at the foolish, foolish caster, who was now in a good bit of trouble as Yukiko and Severa both had their blades poised to cut the Rabitkin into bite-sized pieces. I smiled at her, and said, “Hello, Instructor Whitetail. I take it this warm welcome has something to do with the fact that you appear to have been blessed by the goddess Sharess?” Indeed, it was the same ice mage who had tested me in this building months before, but this time, instead of her lithe form, I had to keep myself from laughing as she waddled along, obviously well along in her pregnancy. It had been just under six months, in game, since I finished the tutorial and got tested. From what I remembered about rabitkin, they typically had eight month pregnancies, so she was fairly far along now.

Canea Whitetail
High Rabbitkin Female
Level 60 Winterlord (Ice Mage) / Blessed Oracle (Priestess)
Titles: Genius, Manslayer, Incubus Bane, Fatebound

Oh, two titles that gave her bonuses against men in general, and Incubi in particular. No wonder she broke my shield with a single spell. Still, I had power leveled, and gotten my skills and spells up to a point that I could see more information about her than I could before. I didn’t need to use Observe to see that she was pissed as hell at me, though.

“You’re gods damned right it is! Look what you did to me! I feel like a goddamn cow!”

I couldn’t help a smile from cracking my face. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful mother. And really, didn’t we agree that it was your own fault for taking an incubus alone into a room, and, when he told you he specialized in charm magics, told him to take his best shot?” I took a moment to visibly pan my eyes over her body. “Looks like my best was pretty good, hmm?”

By that time, the guild staff came to take the enraged rabbitkin away someplace she could cool her head. Once the girls put their weapons away, I waved off the man from the guild apologizing to me. “No worries. I didn’t get a scratch on me, and you know how emotional ladies can be when they’re expecting.” Still, I did allow them to waive the fee for reevaluating my Adventurer’s Guild status.

Zayn Darkmore
Hellspawned Drake (Incubus)
Knight – Wyrmwood
Lord - Lithaes
Consort – Black Rock
Consort - Mirelth
Hexblade (Warlock)
Slave Trainer
The Executioner, The Sexecutioner, Corrupter, Master Chainmaker, Machiavelli, Dragonfriend, Dragon Consort, Slave Trader, Trophy Hunter, Harem King, Stud Horse, Undead Bane, Leash Lord, Dragon Summoner

I’d come a long way since I last showed my face in a chapter of the Adventurer’s Guild, and honestly, the rank up from E to C was based almost completely on my massive accomplishments. Most people had to do a lot of quests of the ‘hunt this’, ‘fetch that’, and ‘guard this guy’ nature. Your typical MMO fare, really. But rescuing elf princesses, stopping undead invasions, and freeing a city from a dragon’s control kindof make a mark. The only reason it was still at C, and not higher, was because there were level requirements for the higher ranks. Regardless of your skill, a level 50 shouldn’t be going on the S rank quests, where creatures with levels in the high triple digits could be considered fairly common.

While I was there, I picked up a couple quests for the trip to the border. If I’m already headed that way, might as well make some extra coin while I’m at it, right?

New Quest Alert!

Hunt Slavers on Blacklake Road

A band of slavers has been operating on the Blacklake Road between Fathon and the border town of Blacklake, on the edge of the Horde Tribeslands. They have been operating independently of the Slavers’ Guild, and are not under its protection. The Slavers’ Guild wishes to make an example of these renegades.
Kill or Capture the band of slavers (20/20 remaining).
Optional: Defeat the band’s leader, Black Eyed Shyrl.
The band of slavers escapes the kingdom.
10 GP per slaver killed.
30 GP per slaver captured and turned in to a Slavers’ Guild representative.
Increased standing with the Slavers’ Guild.
Optional: Profession Upgrade Quest
Decreased standing with the Slavers’ Guild.

New Quest Alert!

Undead on the Highway

The members of Moradin’s Hammer were to exterminate the undead in the hills near the Blacklake Road. They have not been heard from in some time. Find them, and either rescue them or discover their fate. Destroy the undead in the hills.
Discover what happened to the members of Moradin’s Hammer.
Destroy the undead in the Lost Vault.
Arrive in Blacklake before completing the quest.
Increased standing with Adventurer’s Guild.
Increased standing with Brudrinen Empire.
Decreased standing with Adventurer’s Guild.
Decreased standing with Brudrinen Empire.

After finishing my business at the guild, I went to the marketplace, so I could replenish my supplies in preparation for a long journey. I decided that instead of getting more horses for the new slaves, I’d get a sturdy wagon and a pair of animals to draw it. That was easy enough to get, and I had enough coin to make sure that the wagon was a really good one. Of course, the reason I got the wagon was because there were both slavers and a dungeon on the road ahead of me, which meant loot.

Naturally, I didn’t only buy mundane items. As I was browsing, I noticed a couple lovely magical items that I simply had to have.

Balance’s Last Word
50 – 75
Damage Type
This wave-bladed kris knife has been forged from a rare (and possibly insane) combination of demonsteel and angelsteel. It is a weapon designed to attack both good and evil creatures equally, without prejudice. The blade is solid to the touch, but becomes spectral when drawn, allowing it to pass through armor and strike the flesh beneath.

+30 WIS
Ignores Armor
Does no damage to Constructs, Oozes, or Undead
Increased Criticals – x4 Damage on Critical Hits
Imbued: Fusion Blade – Counts as both Holy and Unholy weapon.
Enchanted: Sacrificial Blade – When used to kill a sentient creature, gain a bonus to that creature’s largest stat for 24 hours. If the sacrifice happens during a ritual lasting at an hour in length, the gain is permanent. In this case, the victim must be willing or restrained (physically or magically) for the duration of the ritual.

Sharess’s Blessed Amulet
An amulet, bearing the holy symbol of the Goddess of Passion, Sharess. This amulet has been both enchanted and cursed, providing much to those who spread their ‘passion’ freely, but taking much from those who abstain.

+20 CHA
+20% to all spellcasting
Enchanted: Lover’s Mark – Whenever you have sex, MP Regen increases by +10 per min for 24 hours. (Does not stack.)
Cursed: Loveless Suffering – Item can no longer be removed unless a remove curse spell is used while on holy ground. Whenever you go 24 hours without having sex, MP Regen decreases by -30 per min, and you gain a -50% penalty on all stats.

Star of the Morning
It is said that this mithril circlet was once the possession of the original fallen angel, Lucifer. The brilliant white gem inset over the forehead gleams with the energies of creation, or perhaps simply magic. The one who wears this circlet receives a great deal of power from the wearing, but finds himself further from Heaven than ever before.
Requires: Must be an Angel.
Requires: Must be Fallen or in service of an Evil creature.
Requires: Must eat the flesh of a Demon.

+50 to all Stats
+25% to all skills
-50% MP cost for all spells
+5.0 per min HP and MP regen
Immune to negative secondary effects of both Holy and Unholy effects (damage calculated as normal).

The dagger was an excellent substitute for my old Sacrificial Dagger. The temporary nature of the buff was unfortunate, but it was a better weapon than the old dagger. And it wasn’t like I couldn’t still get the permanent buff by doing a little sacrifice.

The Amulet was also a no-brainer. Some would call me oversexed. I had a harem of beauties that tended my needs on a daily basis, so it would be a VERY rare condition to find myself suffering from the curse. I also managed to learn the enchantment for the curse, so I could replicate it myself. Cursing slave collars so that the wearers needed to get laid every day would be one way to punish unruly slaves without damaging them, and possibly dropping their resale value. Plus, I know that there are more than a few potential slave owners who would love lording it over their sex slaves that they are dependend on him for relief from the curse.

That Star of the Morning went into my inventory for the moment. It was a ‘lucky’ find, and a really niche item that some adventurer had found in a dungeon and was trying to unload at the auction house. Since it had a high list of prerequisites, there weren’t many takers, so I got it at a low cost. Once I’d given Gadriel some training, she’d wear it.

Finally, I also purchased a scroll of teleport. This would be useful later, but for the moment, I simply rounded everyone up, and we headed back to the inn. I needed to have a ‘talk’ with an angel.

After dinner, I allowed the girls to go do their thing with the dragon, and left the demon on guard outside our rooms. As for myself, Gadriel joined me in my room. She was wearing a lovely shift designed to show off her curves, for the moment. She’d told me earlier that her armor and weapons were bound to her, and she’d had them stored in a summonable space so they hadn’t been stolen from her.

“So, is this the point where you violate me? I know what you mortals are like. That slavemaster said that decreasing my sale value was the only reason he didn’t take my purity himself.” She was trying to put up a brave front, but she wasn’t fooling me.

“Good. You’re not going to waste your breath on talk of how I can or cannot do this, or how I’ll pay for my wicked ways, or anything like that. To answer your question, though, yes, I will be violating you. You are mine, and I wish to partake of you. However, you may rest easy in the knowledge that I am not one of those masters who delights in torturing and maiming those under their power. Oh, I will do it if necessary, but as a follower of Sharess, I much prefer to see my pets shudder in pleasure from my skills in bed than in fear from my skills with a whip.”

I pressed a finger against the angel’s lips before she could respond, and said, “I will be enjoying your body. There is nothing you can do to change that. But service me well, and willingly, and I promise you that no man save me will touch you without your leave and live, so long as I am present in this world. Your life will be as comfortable as one might find it in this material plane. Defy me and resist, and you will be placed in the stocks in my village, for anyone to enjoy as they see fit. Personally, I would prefer not to strip such a wondrous creature as yourself of her dignity with such a spectacle.”

As I spoke, I reached up to lightly examine her body with my hands, over the shift she was wearing. I was gentle, teasing, giving hints of pleasure to come, rather than the rude groping one would expect as a public whore. A moan escaped her as my fingers lightly pinched one of her nipples through the fabric, pulling gently on it. I did not rush her decision, allowing her time to consider it while I engaged in foreplay, bringing her to the edge, but not letting her pass over.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, but was less than a quarter of an hour, she whimpered, and said, “I will serve willingly.” And then she screamed, as I allowed her to climax for the first time that night.

“Good girl.”

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chapter 34 - Tricksy Elves

“Very well. I would like to request asylum in Sanctuary.”

I chuckled as I shook my head, “Damn, I just lost a hundred credits.” I turned to look at Leliana. “So, it was Kyle that won the pot, right? He was the one that bet on asylum.” Leliana nodded, a smile on her face. “Damn. He’s going to be insufferable for days!”

Looking back at Elnaril, I said, “You see, we had a betting pool on what this meeting would be about. Kyle was the only one who bet on you seeking asylum. I bet on it being a trap to try and ransom us to my Father. Ah well, can’t win them all, right?”

Elnaril looked confused. “You believed this would be a trap, and yet you came anyway?”

I laughed. “Of course! I wouldn’t be able to win my bet otherwise. Also, the best way to figure out the reason for a trap is to spring it. At the very least, we would learn more about your specie’s capabilities. We might even have captured someone important.”

The elf shook his head, clearly not understanding. I noticed that the Gothans realized that I was clearly not afraid of a trap, and thus believed I could get out of it at will. That made them nervous. Good. The elf muttered to himself, “You humans are insane!”

I chuckled, letting the elf know he had muttered a little too loud, and then said, “Maybe. But let us talk about you, yes? Why are you seeking asylum from Sanctuary?”

Elnaril sighed. “Because I get all the information, as I said, and I’ve seen what you people have been doing since the Asguard stopped protecting you. The Kratuans were a nasty race, and not big on purchasing weapons, since they were all biological weapons. But they had conquered several systems by the time they met your people. It should have been over from the moment they managed to land one of their colony ships on your planet. No other species has ever recovered from that without making a planet basically uninhabitable.”

“You, on the other hand, somehow managed to destroy the fleet sent to attack you, and cleanse your world of the infiltration. That would have been enough for most races, but under Iceblade’s leadership, you went and declared war not only on the Kratuans, but an interstellar empire! Another move that should have been suicide.”

“And yet you won, and in such a manner that the Kratuans are now extinct, and despite Aprico’s best efforts none of your neighbors will move against you, no matter what incentives were offered. We couldn’t even get anyone to get behind a revenge strike. The ‘Acquisitions’ teams had to get involved directly, or use pirates, rather than government actors.”

“Honestly, the insane level to which your species takes vengeance for slights scares the hell out of me, but the people in charge are convinced we’re dealing with a ‘normal’ young race who’s gotten their hands on tech better than they ought to have, and doesn’t know their ‘place’. I’m not the only analyst looking for some means to escape what is coming.”

Well, I’d be almost insulted by that description, if it wasn’t pretty accurate. Daddy never claimed to be the most forgiving sort of person. Still, if it was just an analyst being scared of getting a few planets slagged, then I wasn’t seeing the need for him to claim asylum. “And why seek asylum? Why not just take your money and run off someplace on ‘vacation’ and not come back?”

“And do what, exactly? I’m not a scientist, or a magical researcher. I’m not one of the truly rich and powerful. I’m an analyst. What kind of work could I get out there if the Corporation falls? I’d be stuck working for a no-name competitor, and have to rebuild everything I had before. But with asylum, I would have food and shelter, someplace quiet and out of the way.”

Oh, the poor bastard thought ‘asylum’ was a magic ticket to easy street! Deluded, perhaps, but there might be something we can do with this. I paused, as if considering this, and said, “And what is in this for us?”

“As I said, my department processes and analyzes all information coming into Aprico Corporation sources throughout the sector. These reports come to my desk, and so I have access to a great deal of information that most people wouldn’t have. Certainly, it is more than you could get from the public datanets. I would be willing to provide some of this information to you in exchange for asylum.”

“The problem with trading information for asylum is that it is quite difficult to verify beforehand, and most of the really useful information has a limited period of viability. And, to be honest, what use would you be even a year from now if we took you in? Why should Sanctuary bother supporting you for however long you live for information that will be useless in under a year, even if it isn’t fake?”

The elf blinked for a moment, clearly having trouble with the concept that just his information alone wasn’t valuable enough to put him up for life, or that they might want some kind of continuing contribution from him. “But surely the distribution of assets across the corporation’s space, as well as the budget outlays for various projects is enough to buy my asylum!”

I shook my head. “It is enough to buy you a trip to Sanctuary space, perhaps, if it proves true. But we don’t tolerate people who don’t contribute on Sanctuary. Only the elderly, the sick, or the physically or mentally disabled get a free ride on Sanctuary. Everyone else is expected to work in order to eat on the government’s dime. Some join the military. Some do research on various things. Some are explorers, merchants, or repairmen. I myself spend most of my time as a freighter captain. If you want to come to Sanctuary just to be supported, then you had better have skills you can contribute in return.”

I did the man a favor and ignored the guards trying to stifle a chuckle behind his back. Still, he looked flabbergasted. Seems they didn’t do things the Sanctuary way here. Well, on Sanctuary if someone proved to be a drain on the state, and wasn’t willing to contribute in some way, they tended to have a rather rude awakening. They either got a job, or they got shipped off somewhere else, usually Earth. On the other hand, Daddy made sure to step on anyone who got the ideas to make some kind of stigma against ‘service’ or ‘hands-on’ work. The guy flipping burgers at the restaurant or the guy who helped fix things when they broke were both equally as important to Sanctuary’s well-being as jobs that would have required a college degree back on pre-Contact Earth.

Fine, I’ll toss the guy a bone. “How many languages do you speak? Are you an expert on any cultures? What kind of magic do you have? Seriously, do you have any skills besides taking data and reading reports?”

Elnaril took a breath, and said, “I am a Force Mage, specializing in things like barriers, force constructs, and the like. It is less appropriate for an attacking role, and has little healing ability, but I am capable of doing a fair range of things with it. Other than that, I am an accomplished analyst, as I’ve said. I speak the four primary languages of Aprico Corporation, as well as the Trade Tongue, naturally.”

I looked over to Lilyana. “Teacher?”

She considered for a moment, and then nodded. “Yeah, he could do as a teacher for the young mages, especially any force mages. Or we could let him teach people the Trade Tongue. That would go over well with those intending to go into the military or the merchant fleet.”

Elnaril looked very relieved when we said that, and instantly replied, “I never thought about teaching! Yes, I could teach people magic, if there are any qualified students, at least the basics.”

(Back on the ship)
I sighed as I walked onto the bridge. It was just about eight hours since we’d brought our ‘passenger’ on board to start reviewing his information. So far, the information looked legit, at least from what we could cross-reference from the data networks (both local and the one we plundered on Prukyb). But, well, I was raised by a supervillain, so if there’s one thing I always expect, it is a ‘surprise’ or two when things look like they’re going too smoothly.

I looked over to Destiny, and said, “Status?”

“As you said, we loaded the data onto stand-alone devices with no wireless connectivity, to isolate them. When I cleaned it, I stripped out five viruses, seven worms, and eighteen exploits, five of which would have used our communications to send a beacon directing the Aprico ships straight to us. The data was also encrypted with three different cyphers, each one making the result look like actual data, but providing different results.”

“At least they’re starting to think of us as actual opponents. And our guests?”

“The elf deployed several listening devices, as well as a beacon and a communicator. They’ve all been neutralized, though he is unaware of it. Lily caught him trying to send a magical signal out, but had already set wards on the ship, which squashed it. The guards also deployed several swarms of nanites. Most appear to be multipurpose swarms, but one is configured as a beacon as well, and two more are trying to infiltrate our systems.”

“Honestly, you would think that they never learn. They clearly do not have supervillains on their planets, if they didn’t think we would check for traps. Do you think they have any use for us after this?”

Destiny shook her head resolutely. “No way in hell, sis. Couldn’t trust them to do something suicidally stupid, like try to take our weapons offline or blow up the ship. We would have to keep back from all the fighting until we offloaded them somewhere secure. And I can’t think of anywhere within easy reach that I’d trust to keep them locked away until we came back for them.”

“So, we’re left with ‘kill them all’, ‘maroon them someplace nasty’, or ‘sell them to slavers for a quick buck’, is that what I’m getting?”

“Pretty much. The only issue I see is that if we dump them on slavers and Aprico goes and grabs them by force, we’re going to look like we’re acting in bad faith. So either tell the slavers up front that Aprico may send ‘negotiators’ for them soon, or don’t sell them.”

(Elnaril POV)
It had been eight hours and I still hadn’t gotten a signal back from the communicator. The shadowbitch had put wards on the ship that stopped his basic communication spells. He could do something more powerful, but not without warning her, and any other mages they had on board. We could be anywhere in the Thanic system by now. Well, I was unfamiliar with Sanctuary drives, but we should have had some kind of warning if we went to hyperspace or went through the jump gate.

I looked to the leader of my ‘guards’, Commander Da’sthan of the Gothan Special Forces. Of course, I wasn’t a simple analyst, either. As an Operative, it was my responsibility to find a way into the main part of the Sanctuary fleet, where I could sow chaos and bring them down. Or at least put a hole in their flagship to take it out.

Before speaking, I activated the concealed jamming device to neutralize the listening devices we’d detected, and turned my face away from the camera in the room. “Commander, have your nanites had any better luck?”

Da’sthan shook his head. “Negative. All attempts have failed, and our nanites get knocked out when they leave this room.”

I sighed, and then said, “If this ship makes the jump gate, we’ll have to go with plan B.”

“Or you could die.” My head snapped up to the camera as this human Frosty’s voice came over a speaker. Before I could say anything, the fire suppression system activated, spraying the room. Except that the water was so cold it burned!

(Frosty POV)
I watched on the main screen as the spy and his commandoes died. “They checked for bombs, explosives, toxins, and a dozen other things, but they didn’t bother to make sure that the sprinklers for putting out fires actually had water running in them? Fools!”

The rest of the bridge crew laughed, and Stephen handed me the bowl of popcorn that was going around. “To be fair, I’m fairly certain you’re the only person other than Dad who would think of switching the water lines for liquid nitrogen.”

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