IS, V1, Chapter 11: The Sniper

I’ve always had a strong sense of justice, but marksmanship takes practice. To gain accuracy requires many targets, life is cheap. I never truly understood that, until I met Michael.

A righteous demon might actually be an angel, but to those without power, everyone above them will appear monstrous. When I first saw that boy who killed the dragon, I decided that even if he were to lead us all towards damnation, I would still follow him into the flames of hell.

His words were like my own, there was no uncertainty, he knew what was required to fulfill his desires. The level of power necessary to make the entire world his kingdom, with Black Mithril as his capital.

The laws were clear and we followed them with supreme conviction, but I’m sure we appeared as cruel bringers of death to the guilty ones. True monsters are not the beasts we hunted for food in the second ring of Lorthon, but the criminals we executed.

Thou shalt not enslave and thou shalt not rape, the innocent understood and accepted those two commandments. There was no mercy for anyone who refused to acknowledge those simple rules.

Within the first month, we had removed exactly 297 stains on our honor and then our city was finally purified. Civilians couldn’t understand how our weapons worked, but they knew of our power when wielding them.

Ailyn’s inventions could make even the weakest of my soldiers into excellent warriors and archers. Raelin’s magic academy was steadily creating my future mages and healers.

Ethir was a strange and mysterious man, but he was a master of stealth. It wasn’t difficult to convince him to teach my assassins his techniques.

Even though she was incredibly busy planning and running our city, Lorelei was still willing to give lectures regularly. The most effective ways to use and wield knives, communication skills, marketing, customer service… she insisted that we were all important employees of her company.

When we weren’t enforcing the laws or participating in hunting expeditions, unfortunately, my army had to become merchants. I was spared, since my normal job never ended and there was always something that I needed to be doing.

By the second month, our base of operations had been fully constructed and we could finally begin mass production of firearms. My forces had numbered 150 by then, but we only had a few of each type of gun.

However, I understood each of our weapon’s capabilities and began assembling teams to use them properly. It was inefficient to make every soldier masters of each, so I needed specialists.

The first squad was something that Michael had spoken to me about before he left, The Reapers. Squirrel tribe may have been docile, but they were never weak.

Their ability to fly through the trees was not something I was willing to waste, they were meant to become unseen and unheard phantoms. Tearing apart anyone foolish enough to challenge us within Lorthon Forest.

Inspired by Ethir’s form of combat during the training exercises he showed me, I decided to name the second squad, Wraith Corps. The only evidence that they even existed was the loud *Bang* of their pistols firing and a puff of black smoke in their wake.

The vanguard of my forces consisted of mostly dark dwarves wearing heavy plate armor and wielding a scatter-shot rifle, Michael called them shotguns. They were The Guardians, who slowly advanced while protecting everyone else and easily sweeping away anything foolish enough to approach them.

Mid-ranged riflemen were the bulk of my army and were referred to as Executioners. Their purpose was to accurately and efficiently neutralize any and all enemies that entered their sights.

We had very few mages or healers left, but Raelin, Nadja, and Lachel were busy teaching hundreds of potential candidates. From what Ailyn told me, the main problem with black powder was the buildup of damaging residue within the barrels of our weapons.

The first and most important magics that every soldier in my army needed to know were wind and earth manipulation. At least enough to clean their firearms properly and regularly, although there were less efficient and more time consuming ways for those who couldn’t.

Development of smokeless powder was put on hold, because our main concern was simply building up an arsenal as fast as possible. However, we were mass producing various other products as well, since we couldn’t sell firearms.

Everyone learned to ride horses or oxen, but there were pistol wielding light cavalry called Dragoons. Their main purpose was to chase down fleeing enemies or to quickly reinforce a flank that was being targeted or focused on.

I personally commanded a small unit of snipers, which was named Judgment. The long ranged rifles were very similar to the original designs, except with longer barrels, a device on the top that let you see from much farther away, and they only held one bullet at a time.

Their projectiles were longer but the same caliber, the amount of recoil was much larger as well. To avoid injury and achieve maximum accuracy, we usually had to use a bipod in a prone position.

Lorelei was actually my niece, but we never spoke to each other until that first hunting trip. I was out of arrows and about to be killed by a 2 meter tall chicken, it was pathetic.

However, there was a small mouse tribe girl with the eyes of a snake, who jumped on top of it’s back and hacked at it’s neck. Her fur was dyed red in the creatures blood as it’s head was finally lopped off in a very flashy manner.

I could never be like that, so reckless and violent in the heat of battle. Distance was preferable, issuing commands while being able to enjoy the target practice in relative safety.

Part of the mark that Michael gave each of us, allowed me to send and receive simple messages. He said it was basic telepathy, or the ability to communicate without speaking.

The maximum distance was only about a mile, so I wasn’t able to receive status updates on hunting caravan progress. Actually, I couldn’t even speak with someone who was in a different district of Black Mithril.

However, there were a few tricks, even if I couldn’t communicate directly, we could use a relay system. That would be useful on a battlefield, but only if I was there to hear it.

During the third month, Lorelei decided that the riverside wood elf village Nengel, was within the borders of our city. It was less than a mile north of the clearing around the portal, so many of the people there actually visited Black Mithril regularly, and we already had several trade agreements.

At first they were hesitant, but she explained to them that they would essentially keep their own matriarch and our laws were very similar. The main selling point, was when she had me display the power of our military.

There was a large group of human bandits who had kidnapped several elves recently, from a village further north. The moment I heard that slavers and rapists lived so close to us, yet we didn’t even notice… I was not pleased.

Part of our oath to Michael, required us to enforce his laws upon everyone, not just our own citizens. It wasn’t a battlefield, just a small encampment in the woods a few miles west of Nengel.

There was something he once said to me, that I never quite understood until that night. When we arrived, we could hear the cries and screams of at least a dozen women, echoing within the laughs of hundreds of men.

There were at least 30 small tents and one large one in the center, with very few guards patrolling the perimeter. It was my first time actually seeing a human, they were like giants compared to us.

However, they were much smaller and weaker than any magical beast we had faced. In moments, The Reapers, which only consisted of 15 Squirrel Tribe at the time, had completely annihilated everyone who was outside.

Then the Wraith Corps began their assault, 20 gunshots rang out, silencing the laughs but creating a huge uproar as everyone who was still alive exited their tents. All they discovered were corpses, surrounded by a thick clouds of smoke.

That’s when I could finally enjoy myself and begin target practice. The 5 of us each chose separate prey and let loose our judgement upon them.

They were helpless against our wrath, even if we only hit them in the thigh, it was still fatal eventually. We were each hiding in a tree, creating a five pointed star with our positions around the camp.

There were at least a couple hundred bandits, each wearing leather armor which provided little resistance to our onslaught. It was slow, cold and calculated, I was in a very sublime state of mind.

Anyone who tried to escape into the forest was quickly eradicated by a nearly invisible scythe, needle, or throwing knife. Their yelling was in a language I didn’t understand, but their screams were very pleasant upon my ears.

When their numbers dwindled to only a dozen, a series of bright flashes emerged from tents and my fun had unfortunately come to an end. Then came the truly unpleasant part of my job, deciding what to do with the survivors.

While Lorelei’s… assistants, came to appropriate anything of value from the encampment, I had to enter that disgusting, giant tent. Inside was the thick stench of male filth and the whimpering, empty eyed, broken elven women in chains.

There was one that didn’t quite fit amongst the crowd, her face and small frame was withered, but she was definitely a dark dwarf. I didn’t approach her, because she was tainted with disease and covered with festering boils all over her body.

Her eyes weren’t just empty, they were literally blind and her long ears had been clipped. Without even asking her a single question, I unholstered my pistol and showed her mercy.

Then I began releasing the others from their soiled and desecrated bodies, until there was only one left. An elf who was only a child, her words were slurred and she stuttered often, but she was still untarnished.

According to her explanation, since she was still a maiden, they would make much more gold after selling her on the slave market in a human kingdom to the west, called Minas. Michael was right, humans were evil… and their kingdoms were breaking his laws.

He knew what was happening there, in those festering cesspools where slavery was legal and rape was commonplace. Yet, he didn’t immediately destroy them, I was considerably distraught.

Why wouldn’t he simply exterminate them all? There must have been some hidden meaning behind his actions. However, it was actually very simple, he couldn’t.

I’m sure he wanted to, but then what? All over the world, even outside of Alfirin, there must have been plenty of similar empires and kingdoms filled with wickedness and depravity.

That’s why he needed us, our city, my army, the guns and everything else he was planning. The whole world needed to change, but it wasn’t something we were capable of doing at the time.

After everything of value had been retrieved, we all returned to Black Mithril. It was uncomfortable, but that elf child, Muissel, clung to me the entire trip.

Even though she was still chaste, her mind was still tormented by what she saw. I was annoyed by her constant crying and whining, but for some strange reason, no matter how many times I told her to stay away, the brat kept bothering me.

Her entire village was raided and wiped out by the bandits, she was an orphan and apparently felt a strong connection with me. According to her, my mana was very comforting to listen to… elves are strange.

Rat tribe have a very small window of fertility, between when they begin to bleed and around my age at the time. In my 33 years of life, I had never been able to find a mate, or perhaps I simply wasn’t searching for one.

Most of my kind go through short periods of seasonal arousal, but I never did. Not only that, but I never found males or females of any race I had seen attractive, so I was still a maiden myself.

Maybe that was the reason I felt nothing but disgust for those women in that tent, I would have ended my own life, rather than allow myself to fall into such a hell. Everyone dies eventually, so it’s better to leave the world with your soul intact.

After some scouts confirmed the state of the bandit camp, Nengel officially became part of Black Mithril. They were conflicted by the way I handled the captive elves, but after seeing that Muissel was alive and relatively unharmed, they quickly made their resolutions.

Not only would they become our citizens, at least 25 elven archers wished to join my army. They were under our protection, so they wished to return the favor in any way they could.

Some of their mages and healers wished to join as well, but I knew that they weren’t ready yet. A couple fireballs or water bolts weren’t going to make a difference, but if they had the potential, it was better that they kept learning until they reached it.

Although, they were hesitant when they learned that their teacher, Raenil, would be a blood elf. However, the fact that she had been essentially cured of such a powerful curse, made them view her existence as similar to the spirits they revered.

Lorelei was elated after receiving the bandit’s treasures, she didn’t mention how much it was exactly, but by the end of the month she had already started planning something. I didn’t ask her about it, because i was afraid of the 5 hour speech that would follow.

On a map of the area around the clearing, I saw a large square with a small triangle at the center. It was nearly twice the size of Black Mithril and encompassed at least 3 other wood elf villages.

She was planning to build a huge walled city, right above us, and she was already laying the foundation for the huge citadel at its center. What I didn’t understand was, where she was planning to get the building materials for the massive barrier.

The next day a huge caravan, much larger than any we had sent out before, disembarked. Lorelei sent me and nearly my whole army as escorts, our target was something the Squirrel tribe told horror stories about.

It was a rough journey and took about a month before we returned home, but we did find it. Acorns, nearly 20,000 of them, but there was a reason they were feared so vehemently.

When exposed to a living creature’s mana pool, they grow… very quickly. If someone tried to eat one, it would literally grow inside of their mouth and within seconds their entire body would be consumed.

Aside from the acorns, we also needed a massive quantity of magical beast meat to fuel them. At first I didn’t believe it, but after taking a small slab of magical pork, placing it on the ground and then dropping the seed on top.

Within a few hours, there was a 60 meter tall oak tree that was finally starting to slow its growth. Rather than filling the gaps between the wall of giant trees, her plan was to build a fence made of relatively thick steel wire, that had sharp barbs wrapped around it in intervals.

It was one of Ailyn’s previously unused inventions, similar to what was used to construct the fence around the Squirrel Tribes home. If the forest was thicker around Black Mithril, we wouldn’t have had to go through so much trouble.

Another reason was to create large watch towers that could be used to see enemies coming from miles away. Those two had such extravagant and complicated plans that I didn’t even try to predict them.

All I really knew was that it would take far more magical beast meat than we could gather in a year, to grow so many trees. Mainly because we had to use most of it as food, or we would starve.

After returning home, Lorelei showed me a large map illustrating at least 200 square miles around the city. There were many small circles scattered around, but one was crossed out.

Judging by the location, it was easy to guess what I was looking at. Strangely, I didn’t feel anger or frustration… I was delighted.

When she saw the expression I was making, she started grinning in such a sinister manner. I’m sure that in her mind, the black circles were gold coins.

I had never loved anyone before, but I imagined it would feel similar to pulling that trigger. Watching through a scope as the life drained from their eyes, my whole body would tingle for a few seconds while I loaded the next round.

Some of my captains were very zealous in their mutilation or desecration of our enemies. They wanted to send a message to anyone who broke our laws.

I truly didn’t care about such crude forms of communication. My interests were solely in that beautiful spectacle of fear, desperation and resignation as they watched their comrades die, one after the other.

Of course, I needed to let my infantry get some practice as well, so we didn’t always use stealth as our main tactic. Riding armored oxen, The Guardians would charge into their unfortified encampment during the middle of the day.

Each of their shotgun shells would eviscerate a humans head or chest, sometimes several people would die from one blast. Anyone who stood in their path was impaled on the horns of a very large bull, or trampled under their hooves.

To their sides, there was a wide arc of extremely colorful death, as the bandit’s bodies were torn apart and scattered around by tiny metal balls. Any archers who tried to take aim, would be immediately dispatched by myself or one of the others.

After they made their sweep, then came the Executioners who arrived on foot. They would create a line formation and annihilate any remaining enemy combatants in their path.

Anyone who managed to escape my judgement, would be swiftly eliminated by the Dragoons who were anxiously awaiting their chance to participate. I often wondered if there was something more to Michael’s mark, since even the squeamish squirrel tribe had become efficient assassins after taking that oath.

Perhaps it was a result of their telepathic link with me? Although, I suspected that killing was simply part of our nature.

Supposedly, we all came from magical beasts or demons at some point in our ancestry. We subdued our deepest desires for so long, but even the kindest person was still a monster on the inside.

The laws gave us a strict guideline to follow, yet put us on a path towards nearly endless conflict and constant warfare. We probably should have dreaded the future, but our moral was incredibly high.

It wasn’t just us though, every citizen of Black Mithril was motivated and working towards their own personal goals. The air within the city was so charged with excitement, hope and ambition, it was difficult to believe that less than a year before, half of our population was wiped out by a dragon attack.

We were united, regardless of race or religion, we believed in Michael’s laws and Lorelei’s leadership. She ran the city like a business and literally eliminated the concept of unemployment, there were more jobs than there were people to fill them.

Even with the constantly increasing wood elf population on the surface as we absorbed their villages into our ever expanding country, she called it Alfirin. Not Lorthon, she chose the name of the continent because that was her target.

Although, I had a feeling that it would only be the beginning, but even aiming that high seemed unrealistic to most people. Since each of our races came into being, none have ever truly had a nation to call their own.

It was like a childish fantasy to the older generations, but I was still young enough to see the truth. We weren’t going to stop until the entire world was ours, no matter how long that would take.

By the sixth month, I had 1000 soldiers under my command. A tenth of those were wood elves, who were excellent marksmen, but there were also many powerful healers.

I called their support squad, Saints, since they didn’t actually have to enter combat. Any wounded would be brought off the field of battle, into their very capable hands.

At least a third of the population were miners working in the tunnels that we owned and bringing us a steady supply of various ores that I knew nothing about. However, Ailyn seemed to be very excited every time they found something new and her inventions were becoming much more deadly.

She created several devices that would explode and send jagged metal shards in every direction. They could be thrown by hand, buried underground and triggered by applying and releasing pressure, then there were the other kind.

It seemed like such a simple tube, but once you dropped the rather large bullet shaped object inside, it would be immediately fired high into the sky. Raining death down onto enemies up to a kilometer away.

We tested them a few times on bandit camps, a few bombs could massacre hundreds of people and it only took one person to do it. She did warn us though, that we should only use them when it was absolutely necessary.

It hadn’t happened so far, but there was the possibility that it could misfire and kill the person who was operating the mortar. The bombs also took a lot of gunpowder to make, and there was also the collateral damage… to treasure that might be within the blast radius.

Almost all the slaves were too far gone for any salvation beyond a bullet to the head, but we did occasionally find young girls and boys like Muissel. Although, we were usually able to return them to their villages, which led to more territory falling under our control and protection.

That brat was becoming more attached to me, I didn’t understand what she expected. It wasn’t that I disliked her, she was a smart child who would eventually become a powerful mage, but I just didn’t feel anything.

I rarely ever did, except in those perfect moments that I joyfully watched through my scope. Yet, that child was enamored by me, simply because of the way my aura sounded.

Ailyn ran out of blood seals for the weapons, but still continued producing them anyway. The solution was to just keep them from being stolen or lost, since each soldier received the mark regardless of what weapon they used, it all worked out.

We had completely eradicated all of the rogues within our territory, but that’s when something strange happened. Thousands of humans began invading into Lorthon forest towards our city, or at least that’s what I initially thought.

However, it was clear that they were actually fleeing away from somewhere, or something. Most of them appeared to be farmers, villagers, or merchants, but there were some who were obviously soldiers.

I had to decide their fate, if they were to become target practice or potential citizens of our rising nation. There were no slaves that I could see, so they weren’t immediately found guilty of any crimes.

For several days we watched them travel in a large group, directly east, to our gates. Unlike the bulk of the fence, there were four very large gates made of steel pipes and barbed wire, one for each cardinal direction.

They were completely confused when they encountered the extremely unnatural obstruction, along with the wall of giant trees that had impassible steel wire in between. One of the soldiers actually tried to cut the wire with his sword, it obviously didn’t work.

The Guardians and Executioners approached our side of the gate, while riding their very large mounts and escorting me, Lorelei and a group of cloaked wood elves. Snipers and Reapers were positioned high in the trees, completely unnoticed.

My justice cannot be served by thoughtlessly massacring a ‘potential’ threat, with absolutely no evidence against them. That’s why I decided to give them a chance to prove that all humans weren’t monsters.

From what I knew, most humans who lived close to the Lorthon outskirts, actually spoke the native elven language. Thus, Lorelei’s presence was required, just like any other time we brought a new group of people into our kingdom.

Many of my soldiers were anxious about meeting humans who weren’t immediately recognized as enemies. Even their women were relatively tall, most were about 180 cm, but there were a few who were a bit shorter.

However, compared to even the wood elves that we considered very large, humans were giants. Strangely, they were the ones afraid of us, but that might have been because we arrived on such huge beasts.

When we were scouting and expanding our territory, we occasionally found solitary elves, living in caves or abandoned mines. They had been alone for hundreds of years and were usually happy to be able to speak with another person.

Amongst their own people, they were considered pariahs and banished from their villages. The reason was a unique gift that occasionally developed as elves reached a certain age.

They could hear mana to such a degree that they could actually read a persons mind, which made them the perfect jury for my court. There was no need for uncertainty, each of the 3,000 or so people could be thoroughly investigated without even having to ask any questions.

It would still take a very long time though, since there were only about 13 elves. Lorelei was wearing a pink frilly dress… that was originally white.

I wore my usual dark black robe and cloak that was the same color as my eyes and hair. She would always tell me to dress up for special occasions, but since her clothes were usually dyed in blood… she wasn’t exactly the best person to ask for fashion advice.

The two of us casually walked up to the gates and then Lorelei yelled “Welcome to Alfirin! Wow! I’ve never actually seen humans before! You’re all so huge!” in a loud, obnoxious voice like always.

A man in heavy plate armor, with the most expensive looking sword and shield out of the bunch, stepped closer to the wires. He had a strange accent, but said “What are you creatures? I’ve never seen such disgusting looking demi-humans before! Where is your master? I demand to speak with him!” in a very angry voice.

I unholstered my pistol and fired a round through his left knee, then Lorelei yelled “OK! Now that you’ve all learned a vital lesson on proper manners, please proceed in an orderly and very slow line! Unfortunately, we can’t just let you all into our beautiful country without examining you properly!

If you are visibly ill, please don’t attempt to enter or you will be… cured, permanently! Keep in mind that anyone who tries to flee from this place, will not be able to make it very far! I know it might sound a little harsh, but we know nothing about you people… we can’t simply allow criminals into our great nation!” in an excited voice, while smiling as brightly as she could.

Half of them didn’t understand a thing she just said, the other half nervously approached the gate as it opened. Then that ignorant man with the bleeding knee yelled “Fuck you dirty rat! Die!” in an angry voice while unsheathing his sword.

Before he could take one step, a hole appeared in his forehead, accompanied by a gunshot from high in the trees behind me. A myriad of screams erupted from throughout the crowd, some of the other armored soldiers carrying spears or swords began yelling out similar threats.

Lorelei was getting pretty annoyed and I was just bored. However, the first person, a relatively small human girl who was probably an adolescent walked forward and began the line.

They were all terrified and exhausted, so even faced with such strange circumstances, no one tried to flee. I’m certain they had all assumed that their fate was to become our slaves, until a man who looked like a merchant was executed.

Lorelei yelled “Oh yea! I forgot to mention this but… anyone who has ever bought, sold or owned a slave, will be sentenced to death! That’s what we’re testing you for, if you haven’t committed the crime of slavery or rape, then you have nothing to worry about!” in a happy voice, while addressing the crowd of people still gathered around the outside of the gates.

Although, I doubt they believed or understood what she was saying. Nearly every person who didn’t look like a peasant or child ended up being criminals.

In total, there were only 379 corpses and no one was sick enough to warrant execution. Thus, we escorted our new citizens to their capital city.

The entire grassy area around the portal was completely replaced by an incredibly flat, grey, solid stone-like material that Ailyn recently developed from a mixture of… I really didn’t care enough to ask. She called it concrete and it was much more efficient to use than digging up huge blocks of stone, carrying them to the location and carefully placing them in a grid.

When they first set foot upon the completely empty area, they were all very confused and most were whispering to each other about what they thought was happening. Then we guided them towards the large glowing triangle in the center, Lorelei and I stood slightly outside of it and she yelled “Activate!” in a happy voice, while grinning.

A bright beam of light shot up into the sky, it was especially noticeable since the sun was beginning to go down. With extremely nervous expressions, the first group of people closed their eyes and hesitantly walked forward.

After everyone was through, the two of us entered as well, followed by some of my army. I was concerned about what might be following them, so I ordered most of The Guardians and Executioners to guard the western gate.

The look on their faces as they exited the pyramid and looked up at the ceiling was a mixture of awe and deep confusion. There was no sky, just a reflective surface made from various crystals, that was constantly illuminated by small flashes of light.

We continued to guide them to the north, through an anxious crowd of nearly 30,000 residents who came to hear Lorelei’s weekly news report. It was amazing that there were actually people who would go out of their way to listen to her speak for hours.

On the other days, there were various events, concerts, plays, daily news, debates, Hiwel performed stand up comedy occasionally, and Raelin would give beginner magic classes. Merchants set up stands around the edges of the crowd and sold food, clothes, armor, weapons, pretty much everything could be found there.

I hated it, but the rest of the city seemed to enjoy their main source of entertainment. Well, Ailyn did create various devices that she called “Board Games” and Lorelei’s company seemed to sell them very easily.

Although, there was one event that I actually participated in regularly, the archery competition. Unfortunately, those damn wood elves kept beating me ever since I taught them a few tricks.

Ailyn didn’t just create firearms and various random devices, she also improved upon our conventional weapons. Her bow, crossbow, sword, shield, armor, spear, pretty much everything was periodically being upgraded.

Using various new materials and strange designs accompanied by parts that she took from other devices she made, the new weapons and armors were definitely odd, but incredibly effective. It wasn’t just her though, a whole generation of inventors was being created through her influence.

Her compound bow looked so complicated and messy, but even with its small size, it was more powerful than the largest ones. For a rat tribe like myself, I was amazed at the amount of force each arrow could produce.

There were even special sights to improve accuracy, it made me want to get back into archery again. Unlike a gun, bows were silent and amazing for stealth missions, so I began implementing them in our tactics.

Along with their pistols, Wraiths were given small, one handed crossbows which had a short range. They were able to kill several more people before escaping into the shadows and perform much more complicated tactics.

My Judgement squad mainly consisted of wood elves and rat tribe, so adding large crossbows and compound bows to our arsenal was extremely effective. They couldn’t reach anywhere near the same distance, but in the forest it was rare to ever have a target past 400 meters anyway.

Then there were the special arrows… they weren’t quite as stealthy. Upon impact they would explode, but we mostly used them for hunting armored magical beasts.

Actually, most of the more powerful weapons were reserved for creatures that wouldn’t die from a few small bullets. I was hesitant to even use some of the more dangerous and unstable devices that Ailyn showed me.

In all that time only 6 casualties occurred among my soldiers, 2 deaths by magical beast and 4 accidents during training while testing new weapons. It was actually surprising to me that no one died during our raids on human bandits, but with the massive difference in power… they probably thought we were demons.

When we finally arrived at the stage, Lorelei, the three matriarchs and myself were lined up, with me on the far right. All of the humans were gathered together in a large clump directly in front of us, completely surrounded by the other citizens, who were all much smaller.

They were probably still in the mindset of captives, about to be sold at auction to strange creatures that they had never seen before. However, their expressions immediately changed once Lorelei began her speech.

“We are the beautiful and incredibly talented women who run this city! I’m sure everyone here knows us all pretty well by now! However, today, just like so many other times, we have come together to welcome some new residents to our thriving city, Black Mithril!

I’m sure some of you may have deep rooted distrust or anger towards humans! Most of you haven’t even seen one before! If you have a problem with welcoming a new race into our magnificent country… get over it!

We do this shit every other week! If you still have trouble accepting new cultures and people, then why the hell did you even come to hear this speech?! Anyone who doesn’t have any problems with allowing humans into our city, congratulations, you’re just like my awesome self!

At our current rate of expansion, it was only a matter of time before we began to interact with humans… that weren’t evil rapist slave traders! One day our true leader, Michael The Chicken… Dragon Slayer, will return!

When that time comes, I want him to be impressed by our progress! I want him to pat my head and then give me some treasure for doing such a great job! I want him to see our military and be impressed with our power!

We don’t know why a group of 3,000 humans came to our country, but it doesn’t really matter! Even if they were being chased by an army of magical beasts, who cares?!

We are the alpha predators in this forest and anything or anyone who tries to kill us, will become our prey! Any bandits who enter our territory are just a source of income! We are the kingdom of Alfirin and this entire continent will eventually belong to us!

In other news, construction of the great fence is nearing completion. Ancient aunt Nadja might actually live long enough to see it!

There’s a rumor going around that Hiwel was rejected by the mysterious ex-thief Ethir! Ah Look! She’s embarrassed so it’s probably true!

My company has been working on a new product for all you sword lovers out there, although it may seem a bit strange. An extendable blade!

No longer will you be forced to use a spear to stab someone from a distance! They should be sold in all our stores around the city by the end of the month!

The latest mining expedition into the unsealed 6th tunnel has discovered an untapped black mithril vein! I’m sure Ailyn and her team will be creating some truly strange and wonderful devices with it in the near future!

Unfortunately, Clara’s concert will be postponed due to her second litter being born some time later this week. She promises that after a few months, when her babies can start eating solid food, she will return to the stage with a whole new collection of songs.

Everyone’s favorite blood elf and magic teacher, Rae, has agreed to reveal for the first time, some advanced techniques and secrets in what is sure to be an amazing performance next week! Tickets to the show are only 5 silver! Make sure to buy yours at the nearest Lorelei Inc. market stall before they’re sold out!”

Of course she went on and on for about 6 hours after that, but I got the hell out of there before she asked me to give a marksmanship demonstration or worse. The only thing she enjoyed more than hearing herself speak, was making gold in the process.

After the first few seconds, she didn’t even mention the humans again, so I decided it was fine to escort them to their new homes in the goblin district. Even with the influx of elves, squirrel tribe and even some rabbit tribe we rescued from magical beasts while on hunting expeditions, our city was still sparsely populated.

They didn’t have much in the way of personal belongings or material wealth, but nothing is free. The three matriarchs used to own all of the empty properties, but Lorelei steadily bought them all and began refurbishing, practically the entire city.

When we finally arrived at the neighborhood which would soon be known as the human district, they began bombarding me with irritating questions. Luckily, I wasn’t alone, I let my officers deal with all that nonsense.

They still didn’t understand their situation, so it was carefully explained to them. Each family received their own houses and their rent would be 50 copper a month, starting in two months.

It was a pretty good deal, but there was more to it than that. The rules of our society were clearly explained and they had no objections, mainly because if someone did, I probably would have put a bullet through their face.

A few of the remaining soldier types asked about our strange and powerful weapons, but when I pulled out my pistol and aimed it at them, they decided it wasn’t important. It turned out that humans were only as evil as any other race, but they were a bit more ignorant than we had been used to though.

Some of them showed expressions of disgust when looking at me and the other rat tribe. Apparently, in their kingdom there are actual mice everywhere, and many people developed a strange aversion to our features.

Although, some of the children actually thought we were “Cute”, which was very awkward. Their experience with goblins was limited as well, but according to them, there were actually barbaric green ones who lived in the northern plains.

Most of the humans were severely dehydrated and starving, so after her speech was over, Lorelei had a couple thousand free samples of magical chicken prepared and delivered to the small plaza that we were gathered in.

When we mentioned what it was, they were hesitant, but as soon as the first person took a bite, the rest quickly followed. I remember the first time I tasted mana, it was definitely a pleasant experience.

However, they seemed to have mixed reactions, some loved it, others hated it and many of them couldn’t tell the difference from regular chicken. It took a while for them to finally experience it, but eventually they all understood that feeling, when your entire body is being infused with power.

Actually, I couldn’t go back to normal food after that first time. It wasn’t to the degree of an addiction, but I was never satisfied unless I could feel my mana pool expanding slightly after each meal.

To most people, magical beast was a luxury, but since I rarely ever bought anything but food and ammo, I always had enough silver to buy an expensive meal. Also, my job actually payed very well… I was the general after all, it would be strange if I was poor.

Eventually, they explained why they were fleeing into Lorthon Forest. Their villages were on the outskirts of the closest human kingdom to us, Amrun.

Minas, which was in the center of the plains, had been steadily increasing their military might for the past few years. Their capital city was nearly impossible to siege, because they had an ancient pyramid that could produce a gigantic shield that spread out for several miles in every direction.

Supposedly, they had always advocated peace and even in the great human war, 300 years earlier, they refused to participate. Their magical academy accepted students from all over the plains, but earlier that year, they suddenly closed their borders.

For months they were completely silent to the rest of the countries. Then they began massacring entire villages that were too close to their territory.

Several of the kingdoms including Amrun, declared war on them, but any army that was sent to invade Minas, was quickly annihilated. Basically, they escaped because it was only a matter of time before their villages were next.

They expected to create a small settlement in the woods, far away from any approaching war-zone. The soldiers were mostly farmers who were drafted, but deserted before they could be sent to their deaths.

Unfortunately, there was no real information about the true state of Minas’ military. I was only interested in their race’s large body structure and the possibilities they could have as soldiers in my army.

However, Lorelei immediately realized their true worth. They weren’t warriors, but farmers, and we never even considered what that meant before then.

They had seeds, thousands of them, and she bought their whole supply for barely a few silver. There were all kinds of useful crops that could potentially be grown, all we had to do was remove some trees and hire them to do the rest.

Apparently, they were used to paying ridiculous taxes to their kingdom and practically living like slaves. Their society had a caste system, which basically meant that they couldn’t even choose their jobs or ever have the possibility to raise their status from peasant.

Even the soldiers were essentially meat shields, to be thrown away at the whim of their commanders, who were born into nobility. Not only that, but their females were barely even considered people, it was truly disturbing.

Before Michael came, I thought that our ways were crude and outdated, but we never treated our men that badly. In fact, many of my officers were men, and they didn’t abuse their power.

Although, with our oath and seal, it was impossible for us to break the two laws. No one wanted to find out what would happen if we tried.

In their kingdoms, we would be considered demi-humans… basically, slaves or livestock. Half-human elves had it a little better, but in most countries they were considered abominations and banished or killed.

Hearing about their barbaric laws and culture was irritating, so I decided to finally go home and get some rest. I lived in a relatively large house a block away from Lorelei Inc. headquarters, which used to be called the red goblin slums.

My previous residence was the rat district palace’s royal guard barracks, so it was nice to have a place all to myself. At least until that damn brat started living with me.

She actually called me… mama. It was very uncomfortable, but the more I admonished her, the more she tormented me in response.

How could a child become so attached to someone who only neglected and ignored them? I considered the possibility that she actually enjoyed irritating me.

As soon as I entered the house, she began badgering me to answer questions about the humans. Even though her only experience with them was so traumatic, she still seemed innocently curious.

Muissel was afraid to see them in person, but she still wanted to know what they were like. Eventually, I gave in and told her, but my description was probably terrible, because her questions never seemed to stop.

Over the next month, we began regularly accepting new human refugees into our town. However, their numbers were usually limited to one family at a time and it was rare that they didn’t pass inspection.

The real situation was still unknown, but we were preparing for anything we could possibly think of. Deforestation to the east was proceeding slowly, since it was difficult to remove the stumps and roots.

Although, the lumber was being put to good use by Lorelei in either construction or production of furniture, weapons, tools, and many other things that I didn’t know or care about. Occasionally, one of the humans would commit a crime out of ignorance or sheer stupidity.

It usually wasn’t too serious, but if it was, they were treated the same way as any other person who broke Michael’s laws. I was amazed at how often husbands would rape their wives or daughters.

The victims would often plead for the criminals lives, even after being beaten, violated and generally treated like garbage. Some of the telepaths were becoming hesitant to perform their duties, but they had accepted the mark and responsibility.

I began to wonder why Michael didn’t just give everyone his seal and remove the possibility of anyone breaking his rules or attempting to harm each other. However, that would have been too similar to slavery, people needed violence and conflict.

I’m sure that I wouldn’t have been satisfied with my life, if I never had the chance to end someone else’s. Maybe there was something wrong with me from the start?

For the most part, the humans were passive, even more so than the wood elves or squirrel tribe were. I could kill their friend or family member right before their eyes, but they simply accepted it and wouldn’t even attempt to retaliate.

I didn’t actually do that, I was simply making a point… well, unless you count the rapists. It was going to take a long time to assimilate them into our culture and society.

On the second day of the seventh month since Michael left us, I was spending the day with Muissel in the completely empty plaza around the stage. The market stalls were still open around the outskirts, but she vehemently insisted that we needed to be close to the stage.

According to her, there was a beautiful song being played, but none of the other elves, goblins or dark dwarves seemed to notice anything. We brought chairs and just sat there, 10 meters east of the stage, for almost 3 hours.

She was smiling and humming along to a melody that sounded very complicated, but I was completely bored. It was my only day off that whole month, yet I had nothing better to do than sit there with her.

Eventually I did start to hear something coming from the center of the darkness to our right, it was a screeching sound, accompanied by a bright light. Muissel jumped up and started clapping excitedly, like it was the end of a concert.

Something shaped like a gigantic metal worm was sliding its way out of the nonexistent gates at an incredible speed. After bursting through the middle of the stage, it came to a stop about halfway through.

A rectangular portion of the creature disappeared and I could see a bright light shining from inside. Then a giant, at least twice my height, emerged from the beast and stepped down onto the mostly destroyed wooden platform.

He was wearing the bloody pelt of some sort of bear, over most of his massive frame and had a giant thigh bone in his right hand and what looked like a deer antler in his left. His muscles seemed extremely developed, I had never seen anyone that looked so physically strong before.

I immediately pulled out my pistol and fired a round into the center of his chest. The bullet drew blood but didn’t pierce the bone, I was ready to keep shooting but Muissel yelled “Stop it Mama! He isn’t an enemy!” in an angry voice while forcing my hands down.

The man dropped his weapons on the ground and slowly approached the edge of the stage. His whole body was filthy and I could smell his stench even from where I was.

He had long blond hair down to his lower ribs and a haggard beard covering most of his face. I could see short elven ears and bright green eyes, his nose seemed very similar to a wood elf but he couldn’t have been a pure-blood.

After crossing his arms and looking down at me, he laughed and said “When Michael told me about this place… I thought he was just trying to make me feel better. It was supposed to be an endless labyrinth, but I guess it was just a really long tunnel.” in a happy voice.

Muissel yelled “Welcome to Black Mithril!” in an excited voice while waving to him.

He smiled at her and yelled “Finally! I survived! Thank you, Michael!” in a cheerful voice while thrusting his arms into the air and looking up at the ceiling.

Even on my one day off, something ridiculous had to happen. Well, at least I would gain another powerful warrior for my army.


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