Regios turned out to be a swell guy. Little rigid due to his old age, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome by a few bottles of dwarven mead. On that note, we find ourselves in the massive bathtub sipping on sweet honeyed liquor. Nrogara was given private quarters with some maids to keep him occupied, so now it’s just me and Regois, sitting opposite of one another with Meriden hugging me, my tail snaking around her legs. She seems totally relaxed now, forgetting the tension that was felt just this afternoon.
“Is this right? I learned runed magic long ago, but I’ve never thought to use like that.” With that Regois etches the last few rune letters into a magic circle at the bottom of the tub. Once he pours some mana into it, it starts doing its job, quickly heating up the water and producing bubbles and currents to make the water ’boil’.
“Yes, this is what’s commonly called a jacuzzi.”
“Huh, I heard some otherworldlers complain about lack of ’jacuzzi’, but I thought it was something akin of torture for self-pleasure. I mean who would want to sit in boiling water to relax? Other than me? A-ha-ha”
Regios really likes making jokes and laughing at them. After beginning our peace talks, it was decided that sitting at the table does not have the needed atmosphere to make the right decision involving the fate of the known world. Hot tub seemed just like the right place. We drifted to it some hours ago and since then consumed vast quantities of various alcoholic beverages. Currently we stopped at mead, as its sweet taste complements well the meat that was procured for us.
We have talked about possible alliance and while it seems very plausible and beneficial to all sides, I just don’t have enough authority to give a definite answer at the time. When Meriden heard it she couldn’t be quiet.
“What? Who gives a shit? They not like it I cut them. What Master says will be what will happen. Fuck’em.”
It seems her experience with a collar affected her a little too much, perhaps she even liked it. Her inner ’Laura’ would slip out every now and then. The swearing and her slurred words made me chuckle. She wasn’t usually the one to say such things towards authority, but alcohol seemed to loosen her tongue a lot. After all the shock she experienced, she tried to drink herself to death, which I had to stop earlier. Since then she has gone all lovey-dovey on me and very mushy. Human girl couldn’t compete with a dragon and a drake. The usually stoic girl couldn’t hold back any longer and would occasionally throw in her commentary.
I found it very cute and attractive. She was now naked, clinging to my arm, her curly red hair gleaming in the torchlight, and going down to her shoulder blades, her face covered in small freckles and her cheeks colored deep red from all the drinking we had done. How could you not love such a creature?
Now we were talking about my otherworldly experiences, however little of them I remembered. Earlier I have already told Regios proper exercises for meditation. We also talked about various other techniques and training plans he could use.
The jacuzzi was one of the casual things I decided to share much for our own enjoyment. Regois really liked it. Not that it mattered to him to keep the water at a constant 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the dragon could soak in lava if he wanted, but the bubbles and the swirling water produced the desired effects. Plus it would be good for future negotiations.
I also learned great deal about the dragon. Turns out, we are somewhat related. His grandfather, the Dragon God, was the older brother of the Great Drake. He was more powerful than the younger sibling, until the Great Drake was granted the power and the status of the Guardian by Elder Gods.
I say related, but I remember something about people being related to everybody else 33 generations ago or something. It has to do with you having two parents, them having four and then eight and so on. If it was perfect and without interbreeding, it would take about 33 generations to have six billion people around. Of course we are not on Earth right now, so it would be even less. But it doesn’t matter, because fourteen thousand years that that have passed since the Guardian Beasts’ time would have many more generations in between.
But Regois didn’t care. To him I was family and so was Aedim. His thoughts seemed funny to me.
“You see! Even if I were to kill you and take your wives, even if I were to decide to breed with humans, I could not forsake my morals and bed my distant cousin. It is only you lowly humans who can fall so low…”
He actually gave me a scornful look as he said it. I didn’t bother to tell him that all my future brides had Val’Morn ancestors.
So we talked and talked. We decided to end it late at night, when Meriden passed out from exhaustion, it was impressive that she lasted that long. I decided to take the girl with her skin all wrinkly from being soaked that long to our room. Regois said we would continue talking the next day.
I didn’t bother to cover either of us as I walked through the corridors. Regois had a habit of walking nude, even if he was covered in scales head to toe, his servants didn’t care. And I felt no shame, as I believed myself to me rather well endowed, after all the transformations and development, I already looked like a young and fine adult. I didn’t even need to use my limited shapeshifting powers to impress anybody.
With each new transformation, my grasp on the powers was getting better. After the latest one, with me shifting my horns and tail, I found out that I can somewhat shape myself in any form. So I could make my face look different or my hands be bigger. Hands weren’t the only think I could make bigger, if you know what I mean. But there was no need.
I still stayed in my default human form, as it is straining to actively keep my shape changed. This was also applicable in my other forms, so I could make myself bigger or smaller if needed, but it would take a lot of effort if changes were vast. So I didn’t bother to do it much, other than to train it from time to time.
So, as I walked to my room in all my naked glory, with exposed redhead in my arms in a princess carry, I noticed some servants eyeing me lustfully. I wouldn’t think they’d find a human attractive, but apparently going ’bald’ was a noticeable trend as of late, and myself with all the beast traits that I had looked more like monster going bald, than human. There definitely were some glances at my bare behind. Not a pretty image I know.
When we got to our bedroom, I didn’t bother dressing Meriden up in her nightgown. I just lowered her on the silk bed sheets and covered her with a light blanket, then got myself into bed as well. She turned to me and wrapped herself around my arm, still asleep. I didn’t hesitate to join her in the dreamland. I didn’t really require much sleep, but the accumulated mental exhaustion warranted some rest. I didn’t try to resist.
In the morning I woke up closer to the afternoon. Meriden was still sound asleep, and I didn’t want to wake her, because she would surely suffer from a massive headache. I got out quietly, dressed in some clothes previously prepared for me and went to find Nrogara. The clothing seemed very royal-looking, with high quality cloth and golden threads and decorations, I still felt like a peasant, walking around in baggy pants, purple vest on my bare skin and a fez. It also made me want to call out to some friendly animal, like a monkey or a parrot…
Luckily it didn’t take long to find Nrogara. He seemed to be in a great mood after the maids gave him a royal treatment. I asked him for a little help because of what he previously told me.
Troll blood was often used as a reagent for healing potions. Spending a lot of time in the wilds and learning a lot about nature, it was natural for Nrogara to pick up alchemy along the way. Now, of he needed some quick coin, he could bleed himself dry and sell some potions of his own making.
What I wanted him to do, was to take some of my blood and try doing things with it. My regeneration was not as great as the troll’s, but what I did have was great capacity for detoxifying. Most poisons seemed harmless to me and alcohol was nothing to me. I decided to give him very concentrated dose of whatever did the detoxifying and ask him to make a potion. If not for the possibility of selling it, then for the sole purpose of saving some lives once Meriden wakes up. Yes, I was hoping to find a remedy for hangovers.
Nrogara gladly accepted this challenge as he seemed eager to please his master. At first he was bemused by what I was, but after seeing the kinship and respect I shared with Regios, he too decided to disregard the fact that I was human. And I was glad because of it.
After I give Nrogara a quest, I go on to find the dragon, catching some disappointed looks from the servant girls. Clothed, I am not that sexy.
The first thing I asked him was how he coped with his tail. Having to curl it upwards so it doesn’t touch the floor is annoying.
“Ah, having hard scales helps a lot, I don’t need to care about it being injured or stepped on. But mostly its practice, you get used to dragging it around after a decade or too.”
“Uh, thanks, that’s going to be very useful advice.”
“Ha ha, no problem.” He chuckles once again and then grows serious. “Now, we should probably talk about the main point of why you are here.”
“Yes, I gather you don’t want to share this with anybody. I wondered why you didn’t talk about it when Meriden was around. Was it your ploy to drown her in booze?”
“Booze, eh?” He tasted the slang term I used. “Nah, I intended to kidnap you in the dead of the night to talk to you privately, but it worked out for the better.”
“So, what is so important to keep it hidden even from my intended?”
Regios stayed quiet for a bit, gathering his thoughts and thinking where to begin.
“This Darkness, is beyond anything I’ve seen before. It is a cult, which originated around here three decades ago. For the most part they are just a bunch of lunatics who worshipped some dark God and claimed the coming of the end of the world. There is a new one of those every year, but they are often short-lived. This one however managed to gain some sort of power. Little less than two decades ago, the very few members they had become exceedingly powerful.”
“What sort of power? Demonology? Necromancy? Soul magic?”
I just list a few dark magics from the top of my head.
“It is all those and more. They are actually trying to form an alliance with white-walkers in the far north with mutual exchange of power and rituals. They want to recruit them for the future.”
“Snow elves, huh? I wouldn’t think they’d be interested in having some outsiders help them and order them around.”
“They weren’t, until recently, when they were given some information that solved a problem that stood between them and true immortality. It is not enough yet, but they promise to help achieve it for their support. I personally don’t see a merit in this ’true immortality’ as living gets boring after five hundred years. Hell, I’ve become a ruler of entirety of monster races that long ago because I was bored. I was thinking of turning into an evil overlord to spice things up”
He cracks another joke and lets out a chuckle.
“What do we know about this cult?”
“Almost nothing. They kill anybody whom they don’t contact themselves. Their base is in an old temple in the jungle to the north. Some very old and dusty place with nothing but images of snakes and spider webs. That is until very recently. About the time your betrothed heard the first whispers, something changed within the temple. Dark power now surrounds it, killing anything instantly. Only members of the cult are spared. What’s more, a dark miasma spreads around it infecting and mutating everything it touches. We were able to contain it for the most part, but it takes a great toll on our forces. The ’Zone’, as we call it, produces many monstrosities that try to breach and the borders around it and expand.”
This was something I’ve heard about before.
“Let me guess, there was some changes to the temple at the center of this ’Zone’?”
Regios raises an eyebrow.
“Yes. A giant black monolith stands tall right in the middle of the Zone. When it first appeared a small force of elite troops was sent to investigate. What they reported is that it tried to speak to them. The group did everything to destroy it, even using whatever legendary weaponry they had, the apocalyptic-class magical spells and even unleashed a soul fussion attack. No damage has been done by any of those attacks.”
This was not surprising to me. I had a question to ask to be sure.
“Has anybody touched the Monolith?”
Regios’ brow goes up even higher.
“Yes… One ice-troll woman managed to get close enough to it and lay her hand on it.”
“Did she go through any changes?”
“Yes… Her great hammer changed its shape, she was clad in lightning, gained monstrous strength and went on a rampage spouting some nonsense of her wish being granted. It was only thanks to my intervention that we managed to kill her. Her hammer disappeared and we had nothing to show for all the losses.”
Hoping to be wrong I ask another question.
“Was her name Thor?”
“What? No, her name was Nir’Mjol. Why?”
I can’t speak. I cover my eyes with my right hand and put my left hand under my right elbow. I sigh heavily. What kind of idiot governs this realm? Regios looks at me bemused, waiting. I sigh once again.
“Let me guess. The natural laws are all warped within the zone? There are some strange stones that gained artifact like powers? There are periodic releases of some dark energy about a week apart? The elders of the cult have never been seen since the appearance of the monolith?”
Regios looks at me with a puzzled expression and nods at each of my questions. I can’t do anything but double facepalm. I let out a loud moan. I walk to Regois’ private collection of his best drinks and pull out the strongest alcohol in this realm – Godsend Heavenbrew, so strong, it is potentially lethal even to dragons. Without care I uncork the bottle and take a heavy swig of the burning liquid as my senses scream out in both pain and pleasure, this substance not meant for mortals, while I hope it kills me so I don’t have to deal with this stupidity. Feeling the effects quickly overwhelming me I put the bottle down, raise my hands to the heavens and shout, hoping for whoever is out there to hear me.
“Who the fuck are you? Why the hell are you so unoriginal? Is it really so hard to think of something new that you have to copy someone else’s story to amuse yourself? Fuck you, you, stupid piece of shit with no imagination!”
And then a mithril chandelier falls on my head.