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Great [Monster] Journey 27

RSanon Apr 5th, 2014 1,449 Never
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  1. “Excuse me?”
  2.  
  3. The room had fallen into silence since Seira’s entrance, leaving a very confused Galen looking back between his manticore companion and Ahdria. He hadn’t meant to be rude by blurting out, but there were more pressing things on his mind at the moment.
  4.  
  5. Seira’s stare led Galen to believe she was just as lost as him, though there was a definite edge to the way she regarded Ahdria. With her past, anyone that recognized her by sight and knew her full name was likely trouble. Heavy breaths filled the room, anxious, zealous, and curious. It took Galen speaking up again to break the long pause.
  6.  
  7. “Hello?”
  8.  
  9. “Hmph.” Ahdria stood up and walked in front of her desk, eyes never leaving Seira. “I knew this would happen one day, I just didn’t expect it to take a hundred years.” She glanced over Galen, Sybyll, and Mino. “And with a party such as this.”
  10.  
  11. “What’s that supposed to mean!?” said Galen.
  12.  
  13. “Shut up. I’m talking with the daughter of the former monster lord.”
  14.  
  15. Galen scrunched his mouth up, but stayed quiet. He turned to Seira, hoping she might have some explanation, but none was forthcoming. Seira had crossed her arms under her breasts and was glowering at Ahdria.
  16.  
  17. “I’m sorry, don’t think we’ve met. And I would remember a succubus as obnoxious as you.”
  18.  
  19. “Hah, obnoxious? You come bursting into my office, demanding favors that would most certainly put me in danger, and I’m the obnoxious one?”
  20.  
  21. A low growl preceded Seira’s retort. “I haven’t ‘demanded’ a damn thing. All that’s happened is you pointing fingers and talking to me like we know each other.”
  22.  
  23. “Oh? So you didn’t send your minions here?”
  24.  
  25. Her second growl was louder. “They aren’t ‘minions’.”
  26.  
  27. “Then what are they? Soldiers? Servants?”
  28.  
  29. “Friends.”
  30.  
  31. Ahdria laid a hand on her cheek. “How the mighty have fallen. Or, I should say, the offspring of the mighty.”
  32.  
  33. “Are you getting a kick out of this? Because if you’re not, I can provide one.”
  34.  
  35. “Already resorting to threats? I would’ve thought you’d have more composure than that. I suppose this wouldn’t be the first time someone overestimated you, though.”
  36.  
  37. Galen could feel the anger coming off of Seira after that last comment. If this kept up, those two soon wouldn’t be using words to fight.
  38.  
  39. “Alright, who in all the demon realm are you? And how do you know me?” Seira’s paws were bunched up into fists, ready to strike if she didn’t like the answer.
  40.  
  41. “I am Ahdria. And I was one of the monsters that helped Medusuub take the monster lord’s castle from your mother.”
  42.  
  43. The following smirk just begged to be punched. And Seira was far too eager to provide.
  44.  
  45. A hundred and sixty-odd pounds of raw, furious manticore burst into motion, paw rearing back and clenching as hard as Seira’s muscles would allow. She threw her entire body into the punch, a reckless, single-minded attack with just as much emotion as force behind it. Inches from striking Ahdria, however, it bounced off the air, ricocheting with a silent concussion. Seira’s anger turned to surprise as her paw yanked her across the room and into the wall. The sound her body made striking the wall told Galen just how hard she’d hit, but it wasn’t enough to stop her. Seira threw herself forward again, this time with a kick, only to receive a similar treatment.
  46.  
  47. From the look on her face, her futility had done nothing to drain her anger. This could very well continue until she was knocked out or completely exhausted, neither of which Galen wanted to see so soon after she’d left the hospital. Ahdria was also their best hope at breaking the monster lord’s seal… though that concern was a far second. Before Seira could strike at Ahdria again, Galen threw himself in front of her, wrapped Seira up in his arms, and pushed back as hard as he could. It wouldn’t hold her off, but it did give him a chance to speak.
  48.  
  49. “Seira! Stop! This isn’t getting us anywhere and we still need her!”
  50.  
  51. “We’ll find someone else! This succubitch is going to die!” Seira’s claws latched onto Galen, trying to pry him off, but he stuck fast.
  52.  
  53. “What if there is no one else? And you’re not even hitting her! Calm down and think for a second!”
  54.  
  55. “You should listen to your minion, there,” said Ahdria, taunting.
  56.  
  57. “You slimy whore! You demon-cursed murderer! You filthy semen-sucker! Despicable, wretched alleyway vermin!”
  58.  
  59. “Well, at least you’re well-versed in insults.”
  60.  
  61. “Not helping!” Galen shouted back to Ahdria. He could barely keep Seira still for now, and if he couldn’t calm her down, things could only get worse. Luckily, he had help. Two long, muscled arms slipped under Seira’s armpits from behind and yanked her back. Seira’s eyes widened when she looked over her shoulder to see Sybyll’s not-so-passive gaze on her. Even though it was a small frown, it said enough.
  62.  
  63. “Galen is right. This is not the time for fighting,” said Sybyll.
  64.  
  65. “You heard her, didn’t you? She killed my family! How am I NOT supposed to fight?”
  66.  
  67. “By using your head. She obviously hasn’t fought back, nor has she told us she refuses to help. Meaning, whatever happened in the past does not seem so relevant now.” Her eyes narrowed. “What is more important to you, Seira? Attacking her or facing the monster lord? Because you cannot have both.”
  68.  
  69. “Who says?” Her arms and legs flailed about as she tried to get free, but Sybyll’s position and strength were more than enough to keep her in place. “I didn’t set out to settle for MOST of what I want, I set out for for ALL of it. And that includes revenge!”
  70.  
  71. “I thought this wasn’t about revenge. You told me as much.”
  72.  
  73. Seira’s mouth clamped shut.
  74.  
  75. Galen crossed his arms and leaned in. “What’s she talking about?”
  76.  
  77. “It--it doesn’t matter. We are not getting help from this succubus and that’s final!”
  78.  
  79. “I don’t know, it sounds like it matters a lot. Because if it’s going to keep us from getting help, then we might as well have come to Mallus for nothing.”
  80.  
  81. “We’ll just find someone else!” She turned back to Sybyll. “Let me go! This is stupid!”
  82.  
  83. Galen nodded. “You’re right. This is pretty stupid. I understand what happened back--“
  84.  
  85. “No you don’t!!”
  86.  
  87. Seira’s shout was loud enough to freeze the entire room. She stopped struggling against Sybyll, her eyes now ignited and burning right into Galen’s, her face twisted in a form of abject fury beyond what he’d ever seen. He feared what might come next.
  88.  
  89. “She killed them, Galen. Every last member of my family. My sisters. My father. My mother. One by one, slaughtered them in a bloody attack born of hate and treachery. The family that gave me direction and purpose, gone in a night. Do you know what that does to monsters? To anyone?” She hardly paused to take a breath. “Of course you don’t, living on that island of isolation and happiness of yours. You don’t know hardship, you don’t know loss, and you know nothing of revenge, so don’t you dare think you can starting talking like you know what ANY of those words mean!” She stretched her neck as far as it would go, trying to shove her face into Galen’s. Her breath was hot enough to make him sweat and it stank of unadulterated rage. “I haven’t lost sight of my goals. I’m not acting irrational or stupid. I know EXACTLY what I want, and that’s her death!”
  90.  
  91. Galen staggered as if struck. Hardship? Loss? Revenge? Sure he knew what those were. Life on Nox may have been cozy, but it was never easy. They had founded and breathed life into a village on an empty island. They worked for their livelihoods, their safety. And it wasn’t like no one had ever died. Galen had lost friends and friends of friends. Everyone knew everyone else on Nox, and each death hit just as hard as the last. Not only did someone precious leave forever, but the village as a whole felt the loss. Each passing soul was one less fisherman, one less fieldworker, one less person to build a house or fix meals.
  92.  
  93. “That’s not true,” he said, his frown souring.
  94.  
  95. “Did I hit a button? C’mon, don’t tell me you truly thought you understood those things before. You’re barely more than a kid, you should know you have more to learn about everything. Now step aside and let the real adults handle their business.”
  96.  
  97. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a kid! I know I’m young, but you’re talking like I’ve never experienced those things before. You think my life was easy? You think I never lost someone I cared about? That my happiness always came with ignorance? You’re wrong, Seira. What I had on Nox--“
  98.  
  99. “What about revenge, then? When has you opponent been anything other than time and nature?”
  100.  
  101. He looked away. No, he had never knew anything like what she had experienced. His dad had told him all about stories of revenge, of how it twisted you, how it corrupted you. How great people and monsters could be reduced to single-minded villains if revenge took seat in their heart. But Seira wasn’t talking about a story, she was talking about her life. This succubus had been a part of the most ruinous day of her life, and here she was, standing right in front of Seira, almost asking for her to take her revenge. Galen head twitched back in the succubus’ direction. That was odd… she’d told Seira about everything without a hint of resistance. Surely she knew what Seira’s reaction would be? Did she want Seira to attack her?
  102.  
  103. He threw his thoughts and attention back to Seira. Whatever Ahdria’s purpose may have been, it wasn’t the most important thing at the moment.  An odd sort of churning settled in Galen’s stomach, a sick sense of déjà vu. Here he stood again, facing Seira, fighting his precious companion with the brunt of his will. This time, however, it wasn’t just for the sake of the monster she sought to kill. It was for her. He might not know what it meant to seek revenge, to be wronged so cruelly that everything your world was destroyed, but he knew what revenge was and what it did, and that he would do anything to keep it from consuming Seira. That, he could have confidence in.
  104.  
  105. “You can’t do this,” he said.
  106.  
  107. “And who gave you the authority to decide that? You can’t rule me,” Seira spat.
  108.  
  109. “I’m saying this as your friend. You can’t do this.”
  110.  
  111. “You still don’t understand a thing. Tell me one good reason why I can’t.”
  112.  
  113. His hands burned red-hot, his body practically quivered, and pins and needles ran up his arms--but his left shoulder gave him no trouble at all. “Because I’m your friend, and the consequences of letting you do this are so much worse than stopping you.”
  114.  
  115. “Any person or monster who would deny me this can’t be my friend.”
  116.  
  117. Galen flinched. “Then I’m not. But that won’t make me care about you any less or move my feet even an inch from where they’re planted right now.”
  118.  
  119. The heat of the Lands was nothing to what Seira directed at him in the next moment. Ire, loathing, despise, and fury, feverous in it’s nature and determined in it’s cause, roared from Seira without a sound and into Galen. His skin burned with it’s intensity, his heart choked under its grasp, but still he did not move. He drowned in a torrent of fire that never gave up until that once-beautiful red spark faded from Seira’s deep crimson eyes.
  120.  
  121. “Let her go, Sybyll,” said Galen.
  122.  
  123. Seira dropped from her grasp, her legs barely doing their job of carrying her load when she hit the ground. Her claws scraped against the rock floor as her feet curled up. Heavy steps took her to the door, and silence marked her exit. Galen watched her go, pleading silently for her to understand, but even that was replied to with a void. Was she leaving for good, or simply waiting outside the room? Would they ever talk again? Could she ever forgive him? His legs itched to carry him out that door, beg for forgiveness, tell her never to look at him that way again, but just as he promised, they never moved an inch.
  124.  
  125. “Well, well. Looks like you’re not her minion after all.”
  126.  
  127. He spun to Ahdria, his face twisted in such anger he could not describe with words. “Why in all the goddess’ sweet earth did you tell her that?! Why did you taunt her? Who even are you?”
  128.  
  129. “Confusion. Understandable. Please take a seat, and I’ll explain,” she said, gesturing to the chairs in front of her desk.
  130.  
  131. “Are you still planning on helping us? Or is this just going to be a waste of time?”
  132.  
  133. “Don’t worry about that. I’m still interested, but this complication adds another condition to my help, and that is for you to sit and listen.” She pointed to the chairs again, more direct this time.
  134.  
  135. Galen begrudgingly sat. “This better be worth it.”
  136.  
  137. “Worth it? I believe you will find this information most helpful.” She chuckled to herself. “I’m going to tell you about the position of monster lord and the one who holds it right now.” She walked slowly around her desk, leaving a single finger to trace the edges as she moved, then sat down behind it and clasped her hands together.
  138.  
  139. “Medusuub?”
  140.  
  141. “Indeed. How much has Seira told you about her? Not much, I assume.”
  142.  
  143. Galen fidgeted in his chair. It had taken quite a while for Seira to come forth with what she knew, so he wasn’t sure about revealing it all to Ahdria, but then again, given Ahdria’s past, she probably knew everything already. “Seira said Medusuub got someone to betray her mother, then killed her family. Not much else.”
  144.  
  145. “She told me Medusuub was moving toward war with humans,” said Sybyll.
  146.  
  147. Galen turned to her, hoping for some sort of explanation, but her stare remained forward, on Ahdria.
  148.  
  149. “She has not told you much at all, then. Or is it she herself does not know much?” Ahdria tapped her cheek with a finger. “Something tells me she is smarter than that. You don’t live thirty years a fugitive by being a fool. But onto my story. How much do you know of monster history?”
  150.  
  151. “I, uh, well, I don’t know much at all. I heard Suusuub II fell to Toneruth, and Suusuub III died shortly after, then there was chaos for a time which ended with Seira’s mother took power.”
  152.  
  153. “Though… limited in scope, that is correct. But allow me to expand upon that.” She leaned back in her chair. “I will start at the beginning, when the title of ‘monster lord’ was truly first created. Fourteen hundred years ago, the arachne known as Suusuub united the major races of monsters under a single banner and dove head-first into war with humans. This was many, many years after the Rupture first brought monsters to this world and created the Scorched Lands. Until Suusuub, monsters had roamed and lived as much as they could off the land, nothing more than ferocious, unorganized nomads that used humans for the sole purpose of reproduction.” A thin smile creased her face. “I can’t tell whether or not whoever created the world was a genius or simply cruel to make monsters dependent on humans to propagate.
  154.  
  155. “There was no love between monsters and humans. Neither understood the other. Monster species segregated themselves and held prejudice against each other, which led to their current-day form of society. Slimes still mostly keep to themselves, roaming the same as ever, though there are some concentrated communities near water. Lamia and lizardmen, as much as they might hate to admit it, are very similar in their habits, setting up villages in the more hospitable areas. They were the first to abandon the nomadic lifestyle, and also the first to see humans as more than breeding tools.” Her stare wandered to a section of the bookcases against the walls. “How funny it is that what started the wars was likely that very realization. No one can say for sure, as pride and slanted history have blurred the truth, but that is what my guess would be. The humans and monsters both found there was value in the other species, so instead of asking nicely, it came to fighting. How odd we act when faced with what we do not understand.
  156.  
  157. “Suusuub was an arachne, a race not known for their social ability. Arachne communities were very rare; almost all of them instead found a place to make a den and lived there with their families. They were one of the monster species who often kept human males instead of releasing them after obtaining their precious seed, so they were more feared by humans. More tales and rumors were spread about them than most, especially the fearsome ushi-oni. Terrible raping machines, single-mindedly devoted to endless sex and any man to find himself face-to-face with one would surely meet an early death by exhaustion.” Ahdria’s finger began tapping at the desk in a rhythmic pattern. “Most of it exaggeration, of course. Ushi-onis are hardly so simple.” She shrugged. “But I digress.”
  158.  
  159. “Are you getting to Medusuub any time soon?” asked Galen. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in history, now just didn’t seem like the time to talk about it. He glanced back at the door. There were other important things to worry about.
  160.  
  161. “Impatient? Don’t worry, I will get to her soon enough. Suusuub did indeed bring humans and monsters to war, but it wasn’t as simple or fast as she expected it to be.” Ahdria leaned forward onto her clasped hands. “You see, at some point after the war began, it ceased to be about taking what value one side saw in the other. It became a fight for survival, a right to live on this planet. It twisted into the horrific thing it ended up being not because monsters wanted to wipe humans from the land, but because they did not want humans to do so to them. Humans held much the same view. The war was not simply Suusuub and her legions against the kings that lived throughout the war, but it was monsters against humans, period.”
  162.  
  163. “How long did it last?” asked Galen, afraid of the answer.
  164.  
  165. “Four hundred years. Millions died.”
  166.  
  167. Galen couldn’t close his mouth. “Millions…”
  168.  
  169. “Closer to the end of the war, the monsters began to win. Perhaps they learned about humans faster than humans learned about them, or maybe they’d finally learned how best to use their superior physique, but somehow they gained the upper hand. Human cities fell one after another, the monsters spreading across the continent like a merciless flood. Even that process took many years, but when you’ve been fighting for a few hundred, another ten or twenty doesn’t seem like so much.” She raised a finger. “But there was a problem.”
  170.  
  171. “A problem?”
  172.  
  173. Sybyll answered the question herself. “Monsters still needed humans to live. If they won the war and truly exterminated humans, they would die out soon after.”
  174.  
  175. The finger pointed to Sybyll. “Exactly right. And even if the monsters didn’t end up exterminating humans, a victory in the war would raze the human population to such a level that the current monster population would be unsustainable. So something had to change.”
  176.  
  177. “But didn’t the monsters realize this?” asked Galen.
  178.  
  179. “To an extent, perhaps. But after so many years of fighting, all they wanted was the end of humans. They had deluded themselves into thinking they could live without them, or at least a limited population of them. Many monsters lived their lives abstaining of humans, declaring they were pure enough a monster to live without them. Of course, most of those monsters died needlessly and ended up proving nothing to no one but their corpses.” She opened a hand to gesture to the room. “Some monsters DID realize the consequences of Suusuub’s army’s actions, however. Specifically the two species that relied on human seed more than any other.” She looked at Galen, waiting for a response.
  180.  
  181. “Slimes and succubi.”
  182.  
  183. “Very good. Slimes require semen as sustenance quite regularly, and there are no means of getting around that, though there are some supplements. Succubi are slightly different in that they require sexual energy, but they require a regular diet of it as well, and it must come from humans.” Tossing her hair back, she clicked her tongue on her teeth. “Most succubi enjoy semen to go along with the sexual energy, of course. Those two species of monster saw the approaching catastrophe and united to take action against it.
  184.  
  185. “They rebelled against Suusuub.”
  186.  
  187. Galen had to take a moment to make sure he didn’t mishear. “They rebelled? As in, joined the human side?”
  188.  
  189. “As much as they could. The humans almost refused the helped, so wrapped up in their pride and prejudice. But aside from soldiers, the succubi offered something humans could not resist.” Ahdria’s chest swelled. “Knowledge of magic. Since the origin of monsters, succubi had always been the species most proficient in it, the ones to cultivate it and reap the rewards. I would like to think their mastery of magic was what eventually turned the tide of the war, but there’s never been enough evidence to say for sure.” She glanced at Galen. “They began to train as many humans as were willing and able. Human mages, though most callous and imprecise in their knowledge, sprung up in every battle. Slimes began using their adaptive and unique bodies to strike with tactics the monsters never had to deal with before. The war’s momentum shifted back to the humans.”
  190.  
  191. “But they didn’t really win in the end, did they? Because there are still a lot of monsters about. A lot even live in human cities,” said Galen.
  192.  
  193. Ahdria nodded. “Suusuub, in all her strive for power, was not a fool. If the war was so even before and now the humans had the advantage of magic, succubi, and slimes, not to mention the current morale of taking back so much of what they’ve lost, surely she was at a disadvantage. Within time, she would either lose the war or her position as monster lord. Therefore, to avoid such a fate, she began to seek peace.” Ahdria twirled her hand around at the wrist. “All leaders must admit to a certain amount of pride, but Suusuub knew what was happening, and knew she needed to try something drastic. Better the ruler of monsters than the ruler of nothing, yes? I would not have expected such a thing to work, but Suusuub got lucky. The king at the time was King Aegin, and it turned out he was just as eager for peace as she.
  194.  
  195. “I won’t say the talks were easy, or expedient, but with their interests so aligned, it was only a matter of time. Suusuub was recognized as the official monster lord by the king, and all monsters were placed under her purview. The king was recognized by the monsters as well. There were a legion of other rules and laws put into place, but those are not relevant to us at the moment.” Turning her chair back to face Galen, she grinned. “What is relevant is the token of goodwill put forth at the end of the negotiation. The king’s touch of pride and the monster lord’s concession that indeed, if the war were to continue, it was hers to lose. The two greatest mages and blacksmith in the land were tasked with creating a sword. A weapon meant not to be used, but to prevent such a war from ever happening again.” She pointed down to Galen’s waist. “The very sword on your hip right now.”
  196.  
  197. Galen stared at Toneruth, his hand gently moving to rest on the hilt. He became conscious of its weight on his hip, how the sword settled and how it’s collective past soaked through the blade into the sheath like water would a rag. His hand grazed across the hilt, it’s patterns coarse against the hundreds of tiny ridges on his fingers. History was so much more than stories.
  198.  
  199. “How old is it?” he asked, still staring at Toneruth.
  200.  
  201. “Exactly? Who knows. It was commissioned at the signing of the peace treaty, but who’s to say when it was finished? My guess would be about a thousand years old.”
  202.  
  203. “Huh.”
  204.  
  205. Eyes narrowing, Ahdria regarded Galen with apprehension. “I will take that as you being overwhelmed rather than simple-minded. Because I am not telling you all of this for mere amusement.”
  206.  
  207. Galen’s head snapped back up. “Hey, yeah, you’re right. You haven’t even mentioned Medusuub yet.”
  208.  
  209. “And that is right where my talk leads next. Medusuub was born in a farming village south of the human capitol, just far enough away to avoid the bustle, the crime, and all the other ugly things that come with a human settlement of size, but close enough for easy trade. She never said much or her early life, but I imagine she must have enjoyed it to be so bitter about what changed.
  210.  
  211. “The village’s location turned out to be it’s downfall. You see, while they did avoid most thieves and filth coming from the capitol, they also avoid its protection. A band of medusa came down upon that village and utterly destroyed it, raping or kidnapping the men, killing or turning the women. Why they did so, Medusuub never told me. Perhaps they needed the men and didn’t want to deal with the complications of families. Maybe they were angry at humans for some reason, or maybe they were just restless.” She shrugged. “What is important is the consequence.”
  212.  
  213. “Wait. Are you telling me Medusuub was born a human?” said Galen.
  214.  
  215. “I am. Not so many monsters know that. I doubt even Seira does. She told only the monsters she considered closest.” Ahdria’s attention drifted to the ceiling, as if entertaining a passing fancy. “Or perhaps the monsters she wished to consider themselves closest to her.”
  216.  
  217. “If she was born a human, and monsters killed her village… why would she want to become a monster lord? That doesn’t make sense.”
  218.  
  219. “People and monsters don’t make sense. I’d like to tell you I know why, but my explanation would only be speculation. That was, of course, my first question upon hearing the truth from her, but she offered nothing beyond, ‘Because I know best’. Hmph. Everyone thinks they know best, especially those in charge.”
  220.  
  221. “If you didn’t think she did, then why did you follow her?”
  222.  
  223. Ahdria shot Galen a flat stare. “I told you I would talk about Medusuub, not myself.”
  224.  
  225. He put up his hands. “Alright, alright. But I still don’t know why you want to tell me all of this. It doesn’t change the fact that Medusuub is trying to start a war again, or that Seira wants to take the title of monster lord back from her.”
  226.  
  227. “No, but it does give the situation context. I tell you this not because Medusuub must be defeated, but because she must be defeated by the right person.” Her eyes glinted as they sharpened. “This chaos surrounding the title of monster lord only serves to weaken it, and with it the integrity of everything that was bought with those four hundred years of war. If that Khertaleon is to become monster lord, she must do so with confidence and the right backing. Taking the throne on namesake and revenge alone will be worse than what we have now. I wish I could tell you more about Medusuub and her motivations, but she was never much for sharing those. So I’ve given you what I can, instead.
  228.  
  229. “It is up to you and Seira to learn from it.”
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