IS, V1, Chapter 5: The Center of the World

I gave Ethir that mark because I knew he would do something incredibly reckless. He was a child desperately seeking a place to belong and wanted to prove his usefulness to me. Maybe I should have asked him directly, to steal from a bookstore. Why the hell would anyone immediately think, royal library?

If you want to steal a gun, you don’t go to a police station and sneak into the evidence locker. He’s lucky that the whole damn room didn’t collapse on top of him, but still… How the hell is petty theft and vandalism with a side of reckless endangerment, grounds for public execution?

He only spoke a few words to me and we only knew each-other for about a month, but he was a good kid. Sure, he spent all of his time creeping on us from the roof… and he obviously had a crush on Rae, but his intentions were mostly pure.

More importantly than anything else, he was willing to risk his life stealing for us on a daily basis. He was talented in stealth, something that I was usually terrible in, and I could immediately tell that he was genetically superior to any other red goblin in that city.

There was no fucking way I would let him die. When I felt him get captured, I wanted to fly over there and slaughter those bastards who were beating him unconscious. However, I still wasn’t recovered enough for something that flashy and dramatic.

Besides that, I could sense his life-force pretty strongly… he was in pain, but not dying. Fortunately, me and Rae had clothing when we left the house, which was all thanks to Ethir by the way. Walking was difficult, but with her help, I was able to make it out of the goblin district on my way towards his presence.

There were actually quite a few wood elves as we got closer to the giant pyramid, which would normally be a good thing. However, the first one who saw Raenil, immediately screamed “BLOOD ELF!!!” and started running for her life.

Surprisingly, not that many people even reacted to the public disturbance… but it did draw attention to me specifically. An older rat man, who was a fruit vendor, focused his eyes on me for a moment and then started pointing and yelling “CAT!! CAT TRIBE!!!” and immediately fainted.

My bald tail had become nice and fluffy after a little over a month, but I never really thought that there would be such a ridiculous reaction to it. All of the rat tribe within the marketplace scurried away like they were being hunted.

Within moments, only a few wood elves, red goblins and dark dwarves were left. Everyone was staring at us with either fear, irritation or just curiosity in their eyes. Finally a group a ten, heavily armored dark dwarves with axes and shields approached us.

A middle aged female, with a broadsword in her hand sighed and said “A month after a dragon attacks, it would be stranger if you blood suckers didn’t try to take advantage of the situation.” in an irritated voice while walking closer. She didn’t even glance towards me, just glared at Rae and kept walking.

Rae started panicking and whispered “What do we do? Do… do we have to fight them? I’ve never killed anyone before… I’ve never even killed a fish before. What do we do?” while fidgeting and hiding behind me.

My instinct told me not to kill them, for the moment. I sighed loud enough to get her attention and then said “You look like an officer of some sort, so you probably know about what happened in the palace earlier today, correct?” in a calm voice while staring into her hazel eyes.

She stopped walking and said “So you had something to do with that thief huh? If that’s the case then you’ll be charged with treason as well and have your heads cut off along side that golden eyed freak.” in a belligerent voice while smirking.

I have a relatively short temper when it comes to people like that, but somehow I managed to contain it while saying “Rae… close your eyes and plug your ears… you don’t want to see or hear what’s about to happen.” in voice filled with suppressed anger. Then I asked one last question “Where and when will the execution take place?” while clenching my teeth.

She started laughing and said “Probably tomorrow on the spot that dragon died in as a message to that Red skinned matriarch… everyone knows that golden eyed vagrant was one of her brats. Anyway, you’re not going to miss it… since you’re gonna be up there with him!” in an arrogant voice as she held her blade against my throat.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I raised my left hand and aimed my palm towards her face. She was wearing a sturdy iron helm and I just couldn’t resist using earth magic while flicking my wrist. Her head was completely twisted around backwards and made that special popping sound, that signaled her body to become limp and immediately fall to the ground.

The other 9 didn’t really say or do anything to cause such a dramatic and inefficient death scene, so I just ruptured a few blood vessels in their brains and called it a day. People were horrified at what they had seen, but they didn’t run or scream. It was completely silent as I guided the whimpering Rae away from the marketplace.

Threatening to kill me isn’t that big of a deal, I can get over it pretty easily. However, Rae was like a dau-… mother to me and I am never willing to lose anyone I care about… in any lifetime. I probably wouldn’t have even killed her subordinates if they didn’t start charging at me like idiots.

After we were far enough away that she couldn’t turn her head to see what had happened, I removed her left finger from her ear and said “It’s OK now, we’re going back to our hideout.” in a calm voice.

After she opened her eyes and looked around, she turned to me and said “Did you kill them? Wait, what about Ethir?” in a worried voice.

I sighed and said “He’s going to be publicly executed tomorrow, on the spot where I killed that dragon. I need to be rested and you need to be mentally prepared… it’s going to get messy. If my plan goes well, then maybe we won’t have to kill anyone, but don’t get your hopes up.” in an exhausted voice.

Walking a mile and a half to the market was rough, my circulatory system was still severely damaged. By the time we got back to our house, I was having trouble breathing and had a massive migraine. My mana pool was full, but I definitely needed more healing from Rae, which she did for a few hours before we went to sleep.

The next day, we woke up early and arrived at the site before too many people had gathered. It was conspicuous as hell, but we decided to wear some baggy grey hooded robes this time. People stared at us, but no one started screaming or freaking out, so it worked out somehow.

There was a large wooden stage set up in the center of the 600 square meter open space that was often used for public speeches and other similar events. Eventually a contingent of at least 100 heavily armored dark dwarven royal guards escorted someone onto the stage.

She was the most attractive dark dwarf woman I had seen so far, but that probably had nothing to do with why they picked her to lead them. Her eyes and hair were silver and her skin was obsidian, her body structure looked closer to that of a wood elf rather than a dwarf. She had very lean muscles that could barely be noticed through her extravagant white dress, which barely contained her relatively large breasts.

After showing off her surprisingly white and straight teeth, she yelled “Citizens of Black Mithril! I, Chrissella Onyx-Opal, have come out personally to oversee this execution today! Early last night a Red Goblin with golden eyes broke into my palace in a poorly planned assassination attempt on my life! Most of you already know this, but this man…” she pointed towards a badly beaten red goblin with golden eyes who was brought next to her as she spoke. Then continued “Is the son of Bariel Gurgaranor, matriarch of the Red Goblin district! I personally believe that she had nothing to do with this atrocious attack, so in order to prove her innocence she will be performing the execution herself!” in a loud and arrogant voice.

By that point Rae was squeezing my right hand so hard that I thought it might actually break. She was making a face that I had never seen, full of pure rage and blood lust as she exposed her sharp fangs. She looked into my eyes and said “I think I’m mentally prepared now… if it’s her, I think I might actually enjoy it.” in a quiet but strained voice.

We slowly approached the southeastern corner of the stage, which was where Ethir was locked in a stockade. Basically it’s a piece of wood with two holes for wrists and one for the head, his legs were chained to the ground. Then an elegant looking red goblin woman walked up onto the stage behind him.

She was at least as beautiful as the other matriarch, so I was really starting to think there was some kind of rule about that. She had large dark brown iris’, with light red skin and no hair… goblins were usually bald. It looked fine on her though, and her grey wolf fur dress somehow fit, probably.

Even when I was a woman, I can’t remember ever having any kind of fashion sense. Armor and weapons I could understand, but I never cared about clothing.

Bariel was very thin and her breasts were practically nonexistent, she still seemed really attractive to me though. We were close enough to them that Ethir could easily see us, but he looked ashamed rather than relieved.

His mother came to the front of the stage and yelled “I’ve been saying this for years now, but this creature is not in any way related to me! I’m happy to finally have a chance to prove it and end these disgusting rumors!” in an angry voice as she formed a large fireball in her left hand and turned towards Ethir.

In a battle between two mages of the same element, the most effective move is usually to wait for your enemy to create the weapon for you to manipulate. I really wanted to make that ball of fire explode directly into her face, but that would completely ruin my plans.

To prove a point, I used negative fire… ice magic to lower the temperature of her flames until they completely went out. Then continued to keep lowering the temperature until her hand had frozen solid. It took her a few moments before she began shrieking obnoxiously loud while falling on her ass and holding her wrist.

I looked over at Rae and noticed she was smirking, if I didn’t do at least that much she probably would have gone berserk. The platform was designed with dwarves in mind, so it was actually pretty low to the ground and I could easily lift myself up onto it.

However, I wanted to make a point, so I used wind magic to float myself up onto the center of the stage. From that position, I was facing everyone, even the two matriarchs and Ethir who were much closer to the front.

With very little effort I could have slaughtered all of the royal guards in a myriad of entertaining ways, but I didn’t. They just took a short nap, and I didn’t cut off oxygen to their brains for long enough to do any permanent damage… probably.

Chrissella yelled “How dare you! Guards! What are you… huh?!” in a shocked voice as she looked back to the 100 men and women sleeping behind the stage. I tore Ethir’s chains off and dismantled the metal parts of the stocks he was locked into, using earth magic.

In an extremely loud voice I yelled “How dare YOU! Attempting to murder an innocent child in front of all these witnesses! What evidence did you have exactly?! Did you even have a single witness to this so called assassination attempt?!” in an extremely disgruntled voice.

She made a flustered and confused face as she yelled “I am the dark dwarven matriarch! If I say he is guilty, then he is! Who are you?!” in a furious voice.

I yelled “I suppose you wouldn’t know! In fact, the only person who does know who I am is the boy you were about to have executed! When the two of you were enjoying yourselves on the surface, Ethir was here! Only a few hundred meters away from the earth dragon, and he is the only person here who truly witnessed its demise!” while pointing at him, it was actually just an educated guess at the time.

She yelled “What the hell are you talking about?!” in a confused voice as I took my hood off, giving her and everyone else a view of my face. There were still black veins and capillaries, combined with my red cat eyes and the robe, my appearance was bordering on copyright infringement.

That’s when I finally heard Ethir say “Michael… the Dragonslayer.” in a quiet voice, but it was loud enough for the front row to hear. It doesn’t matter if you’re a king, queen, or emperor… a nation is its people, not its ruler. Without their support, the matriarchs were just mediocre mages with terrible personalities.

I yelled “They told you that a giant, powerful dragon that was capable of slaughtering this city’s entire military with ease… just died for no apparent reason!?” in exasperated voice while making the appropriate body language for dramatic effect.

Bariel, who was still sitting down and in horrible pain yelled “How could a little brat like you kill a dragon?! Even if you have a bit of talent with ice and wind magic, there were thousands of mages who couldn’t even leave a scratch on that thing!” in an angry voice while clutching her wrist.

I smiled as I raised both of my hands towards the sky… well, ceiling and said “Electricity.” in a calm voice. After building up enough of a charge, I released a gigantic and magnificently over dramatic lightning show which covered the entire city’s air space.

Of course, what I was doing wouldn’t even tickle a dragon, and probably wouldn’t even kill a person, but it was pretty. It was also extremely loud, especially in such a confined space, so people were amazed and terrified.

After several minutes, I had wasted nearly a tenth of my mana, but it got my point across to everyone within the city. I was powerful, too powerful for them to fight against, but not a monster. That was the goal I was working towards, the alternative was to just leave the city with Ethir and Raenil, but then what?

I was still only seven years old, and had the body of a child. My mana capacity was relatively high, but what if I ran out, or couldn’t use it for some other reason? Ethir would have been useless in any sort of combat situation, and if Rae was exposed to the kind of violence and cruelty I was truly capable of… she would break.

Both of them had no idea how disgusting the world really was and I couldn’t expose them to that quite yet. They weren’t ready, mentally or physically to survive the kind of hell that was waiting for us. We needed to grow, that underground city in the center of the continent needed to become the center of the entire planet, my planet.

After my beautiful display of wasted mana, there was complete silence throughout the city. Most of the inhabitants had never even seen lightning before, so how could they possibly understand what had just happened. That was when I noticed Rae, looking completely dumbfounded and realized that I never actually taught her lightning magic because it was too dangerous.

There’s just something special about ionized plasma wriggling about in the skies that completely captivates people’s imaginations. Even the bitchy matriarchs were finally silent because they knew at that moment, there was nothing they could do to oppose me. Even if their armies weren’t dead, they had nothing that would be able to stop an attack of that magnitude.

Finally Chrissella quietly said “What do you want from us?” in a solemn voice, while gazing up at me with the pitiful eyes of a prisoner who had accepted their fate.

I sighed and said “What do you want from yourselves?” in a curious voice while smirking slightly. Everyone, including Rae and Ethir seemed to be confused but then I continued “There are so many things in this world that I don’t even know about, but I’ve only been here for seven years and most of that time was spent in a cave! How much do any of you know about this world? Did you know what lightning looked or sounded like before a few moments ago? Do you understand how it works? What if I told you that it could be generated without even using magic?

This city is amazing in so many ways and has the potential to literally be the center of the world, but what were you doing before 39 days ago? I’m sure most of you never even knew what the surface looked like until you were forced to see it. It was beautiful, right? Yet you all hurried back as soon as you could, because this place is your home.

Even if many of you lost friends and family here, in this very spot, you’re still here. This place has seen far too much death and pain already, so why did you come here today? Did you really want to watch someone die so badly, you dropped whatever you were doing and rushed over here?

The answer is simple, you were bored. You needed entertainment and this was the only thing that was slightly interesting in the whole town at the moment. Not just that, you crave direction, a purpose in your lives. That’s why you’re willing to put up with incompetent matriarchs who were most likely picked based on physical beauty, rather than any sort of actual leadership skills.

We live in a world with beings far more powerful than that giant dragon and most of you can’t even use magic. I’m not even going to lecture you about why bringing your children out to watch an execution is bad parenting, but let me ask them a question.” I had to take a few breaths after that.

Then I yelled “Do you want to learn magic?!” in a loud enough voice that all of them should have been able to hear it. They were quiet at first, but as soon as one yelled yes, thousands of other voices erupted from the crowd. Some of which weren’t even kids, but it was still a good response. Then I continued my obnoxious but effective motivational speech with “What if I told you that anyone can learn magic? It’s easier when you start from an earlier age, but even adults can grow their mana pool and become mages or healers. How many people here know how to read and write?” and only a couple hundred out of nearly 50,000 people said anything.

I said “That’s what I expected. Just like magic, there are so many things that most people just don’t know or understand. Not because you don’t want to learn, but because you can’t afford to. There probably aren’t any schools in this entire city.

Chrissella, you asked me what I want from you, from all of you. What I want is a city and a home, but the way it is right now… can barely be considered a small village. At least one third of the residences in Black Mithril are abandoned. That means a whole district worth of houses are completely empty.

Not only that, but there are three huge palaces that serve no purpose at the moment. The laws need to be changed dramatically, and then there has to actually be law enforcement. We need to start digging as well, not down, but up to the surface. Portals and teleportation are convenient but extremely dangerous and inefficient.

What if it stops working one day? There is just so much we need to do, and we have to start right now! It’s only a matter of time before another dragon attacks, or someone as powerful and dangerous as myself shows up! Do you really want to be in a position where you’re forced against your own will to kill each other for some disgusting bastards entertainment, again?!

I believe in freedom, a world without slavery or rape. A world where people won’t discriminate against you because of your race. A world with technologies none of you can even imagine… yet.

You’ve all seen my power and in your hearts you desire that world I plan to create. I don’t want to rule anyone, I don’t even want to lead… but just like each of you, I have dreams and aspirations. Let me help guide this city, this nation into that world we all crave so badly.” and finally that horrible ordeal was over with. I hate giving speeches even more than I hate listening to them.

I pretty much just made it up as I went along, but considering no one there, including the matriarchs, had ever heard a halfway decent speech before, it wasn’t that difficult to win them over. At the beginning I was just a frightening monster, but by the end I had them all voting me into office with their cheers.

Of course, the actual process wouldn’t be quite so simple… but it was an important first step. My endgame was so far away that even I, couldn’t truly comprehend the ridiculous scope of my ambitions.

When I looked down at Rae, she was so starry eyed that they were actually glowing brighter than normal. Ethir was speechless… or maybe he was being talkative, it was hard to tell with him.

Bariel had finally managed to defrost her hand, but it was going to take a ton of healing magic to fix. Chrissella actually fell to her knees and started crying like a baby, I essentially just convinced at least 50% of the population to follow me with a little light show and a relatively short speech.

Then I noticed an elderly rat woman wearing a hood in the front row, who was smiling at me. She reached her left hand up to me, so I knelt down and pulled her up on to the stage like she wanted. People were still excited and cheering, but I was able to hear her voice if I leaned in closely.

She said “You and your friends should probably come with me, it’s best to leave quickly after a speech is over.” in a quiet voice, and we did. She led us into the goblin district, then down into the rat district, all the way to the palace.

Each one was pretty similar, the only real differences were the statues. When we arrived at the giant double doors, there were two spear wielding rat-men guarding it. She took off her hood and they immediately let us all inside, it was obvious who she was. I just didn’t actually know her name at the time.

After leading us down the very long hallway, we finally arrived at some sort of throne room. It was a lot less glamorous than I had expected. There were some stairs, leading to a chair that was probably made of black mithril… unless they had paint. On the northern side of the room was a door that led us to our final destination.

I was completely exhausted, but managed to avoid complaining. The three of us sat on one side of the huge, conference style table and she sat at the opposite end. Her elbows were resting on the table as she interlocked her fingers and rested her chin on them, then waited for me to speak.

Rat tribe, like most beast races, have fur, and her’s was grey but nearly white. Her eyes were pure black, but with cataracts that made them seem closer to her hair color. She literally had a rat head, all of them did… well, some looked more like mice. An elongated snout, long white whiskers, a cute pink nose, round pink ears, if she didn’t have a humanoid body, she would just look like a giant rat.

Don’t take it the wrong way, I like mice and rats, I actually think they’re cute. Not everyone shared my opinion though, including Ethir and Rae. He probably had a legitimate grievance against them for something, but she was just afraid of rodents.

A few years earlier, we were meditating by the river and heard a squeak next to us. She shrieked, flung herself backwards involuntarily, and fell into the water. I blew the tiny mouse far away with a little wind magic, but Rae nearly drowned before the mermaid sisters rescued her.

After a minute or two of awkward silence, the matriarch said “Oh my… I completely forgot to introduce myself. I am Nadja Giese, 59th matriarch of the Rat District. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Michael the Dragonslayer. I’ve already met you, Ethir, long ago when that bitch… I mean, Bariel, threw you out onto the streets with nothing but some ragged clothing and a couple copper. You probably don’t remember, because you were very young, but you often stole my groceries.

Actually, a month or so ago, I tried to get your attention but you were busy stealing a fish so I didn’t want to interfere. That guy always rips me off anyway, they think just because we live in a palace, that means we’re rich! The bastard tried charging me a whole silver for a trout!

Anyway, I should stop rambling on and get to the point. Ah, I forgot to ask this young lady her name!” in a deep, raspy voice. She was probably about 80 years old, which would be more like 100 if she were human. Rat tribe grew to adulthood as quickly as red goblins, but they didn’t have the elven longevity that they did. Each of the matriarchs were about the same age…

My mother took off her hood and said “My name is Raenil Nironeth, Michael’s adoptive mother. Although, it was more like he adopted me… if it wasn’t for him, well, I’m sure you can tell what I am. Have you ever heard stories of a vampire who wasn’t a monster?” in a nervous voice as she tried not to look the matriarch in the eyes. Mainly because she was fighting her urge to scream and run away.

Nadja wasn’t even slightly surprised, she said “I figured you were the mysterious cat boy and blood elf who caused a ruckus in the central market the other day. Well, Kara Bronze-Blade had it coming, not that long ago there was a big scandal where she was suspected of raping and murdering a wood elf tourist.

Evidence didn’t matter, neither did witnesses, because Chrissella didn’t believe it was possible for a woman to rape a man. In the end, she decided it would be most convenient if Kara was the victim, and the wood elf was killed in self-defense.” in an irritated voice, then sighed.

I smiled and said “Well, if that’s the case, then she should be enjoying a pleasant stay… in hell. I assume you’ve brought us here to discuss the future, correct?” in a serious voice.

She returned my smile and replied “Long ago, this Black Mithril was the richest and most prosperous nation in the entire continent. You mentioned in your speech that you know very little about this world, well let me tell you a long boring story about Alfirin, the largest continent and the center of this world.

Lorthon, also known as the great wood elf forest, is inhabited by quite a few other races as well. However, in the entire world, the forest above us is the only place with such a dense population of wood elves. We’re close to the eastern edge, and the trees are pretty small, but as you get closer to the center, the ambient mana is much higher.

The villages on the fringes of Lorthon are very similar to the ones humans build, but there are three sky cities, creating a triangle with a mysterious and unreasonably large pyramid in the center. The cities are literally built on top of three ridiculously gigantic trees, over a mile tall and with trunks that are several miles in diameter.

Some stories say the pyramid is the source of the gigantic mana well, but I’m pretty sure some ancient people just built it there to harness that power. You see, there are triangular pyramids built all over the world in places of powerful mana, and they each perform some sort of function. Most of them can create portals, or magical barriers, but many of them are completely unknown.

The Lorthon Pyramid is impossible to reach, even if you could survive the constant onslaught of gigantic magical insects and other beasts. The mana density near the ground, between the giant trees and pyramid is so strong that even a dragon would be twisted and transformed beyond recognition while losing its mind. Eventually it would just dissolve into a puddle of tree food.

Anyway, The Plains of Namben to the west of the forest, stretch out all the way to the ocean. They were mostly uninhabited, until the humans came from the islands off the coast. It was fine at first, but eventually their tiny villages turned into entire kingdoms. I’m not sure how many there are right now, but there were seven back when I was an adventurer.

They were always fighting small territorial skirmishes against each other, but never really had a full scale war. To the east of Lorthon is a place I never visited, mainly because of how awful it sounded. Do you know what sand is? Well, this place was nothing but sand, from the forest to the eastern ocean.

It’s called the Litphen Wasteland, and it’s mostly uninhabited, but there are a few beast tribes that are able to thrive in that type of environment. Supposedly, there are even a few types of elves and orcs who built a city near the coast.

The north isn’t quite as cold as the south, but they’re both mostly nothing but ice and snow. Although, in the north there are a lot of mountains… you know what those are, right? Well, anyway, inside of those are huge cities, much bigger than Black Mithril. That’s where the Great Dwarven Empire is located, if they’re even still around.

A couple hundred years ago they were our biggest competition, but after a huge flock of dragons settled on top of their mountains. Well, most merchants can’t afford to hire an army just to buy a couple shipments of weapons and armor. Not that an army would make much of a difference against hundreds or thousands of flying dragons.

The rest of the world is a complete mystery, even to me. The best maps I have ever seen only show Alfirin and a few islands to the east and west. One last thing, before I lose my voice from talking too much.

Black Mithril is currently broke… so poor that before the dragon attacked, people were actually starving to death on a daily basis. For the moment, we’re managing to survive, but if we don’t reestablish our trade routes with the human kingdoms, this city will die.

I’m an old woman who has been fighting with those stubborn old hags for the past thirty years. They believe that interacting with a patriarchal society will taint our culture, and it probably would. But if we don’t do something now, we definitely won’t have any kind of culture… since we’ll all be dead.

My question to you is, how do we convince the people to trade with humans again?” in an exhausted raspy voice that was so faint towards the end, I could barely hear her question.

I knew there was a ton of important bits of information that she completely left out, but it was enough to get a rough map of the continent in my mind. Magical pyramids were always interesting, and I really wanted to see those tree cities but I needed to deal with the problems directly in front of me.

I looked into her eyes and said “Fuck the humans, and I mean that metaphorically. Why the hell should we be forced to rely on their food? I know for a fact that Wood Elves are vegetarians and most of them are even pacifists. There is an entire forest filled with millions, maybe even billions of edible creatures. Sure, most of them are a little dangerous… but let me ask you a question, Nadja. How did that Earth Dragon meat taste?” in an excited voice. My mouth was actually watering as I imagined eating a dragon steak with teriyaki sauce, over white rice and with a side of seaweed salad.

She had a wicked grin as she said “Delicious.” in a quiet voice.


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