Mirucullus – Episode 5: The Dark Continent – The light breeze of the southern ocean blew on Daphne’s face, as the boat approached Ramalia’s port. The journey took her more than two weeks, and the weather didn’t help at all. It was windy and the boat small enough to endure the enormous waves of the ocean. She could have travelled on a Teszellin, but she preferred not to. She would rather swim to her destination than flying on one of those damn things. It was not the huge balloons that made her nervous; it was the idea of flying imprisoned in a fuel tank which terrified her. Only one soul, Atross, knew about that flaw of hers, and he took it deep into his grave long time ago. That person’s son, Daphne travelled all the way here to locate, in Dramaria’s most civilized establishment.
Ramalia was a large, crowded city, built on the safest and natural bay of the Dark Continent, a region that was named after its vast valleys full of Grey Grass. The Cyber Gnome knew that Grey Grass traders mainly inhabited Ramalia, among fishermen, mercenaries, soldiers of all ranks and that Chief Commander Jaram ruled it. If something was making this city significant to the Nine Kingdom’s southern reign, it was the existence, even if they had a small share, of that rare herb. Gray Grass was suspected to be the reason behind the monsters’ appearance across Dramaria. Somehow, after years of research the scientists suggested that the herb covered almost the entire region of Dramaria was carrying the blood of dragons. The same scientists suggested that Green Grass was also able to transfer demons from Abyss into innocent creature’s bodies. The unstoppable birth of possessed beings was a fact that no one but a handful of skilled warriors could handle, and one of those was wondering somewhere on that dangerous land.
It was an unquestionable truth that Sirrius Thrett was the only reason for Daphne to walk on those muddy roads. She needed information as soon as possible, and she knew the exact place to get them smoothly. Depending on her fame and previous ranks, she was hoping to intimidate the authority, so they give her all the information she needed. The houses were all two stored and made of thick wood and grey bricks. On every roof, Daphne dropped her gaze she saw the once-important seats of the Watchers, an honorable position for another civilian every day, who had the duty to watch the western horizons for incoming demons. That daily call of responsibility ended when the army of the Nine Kingdoms marched unresistingly and took over power. I hope the news of the prison break hasn’t reached yet. If they have, then I will have a serious prob …
Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted as she stopped a couple of yards before the building was hoping to find some answers. There, what used to be the Military Headquarters of Ramalia was now an empty pile of bricks, dust and burnt wood. From the view of the wrecked building she assumed that, the destruction happened at least ten years ago. Why no one ever mentioned an accident this important? She questioned herself. Outside the sealed door, she saw a wooden sign warning in local dialect: “HEADQUARTERS CLOSED DUE FURTHER NOTICE.”
“It is a long time since it was functioning.” A voice coming from behind startled Daphne. Turning her gaze, she met a tall, muscular figure, clad in a black cloak, with a long brown beard coming out of his hood. The man stood voiceless, starring the Cyber-Gnome underneath the shadow covering the rest of his face, but after a short time he spoke again: “And a long time since someone stood in front of it like he was looking for someone.”
“And who you might be, to remember every detail of this forgotten wreckage?” she demanded.
“My name used to be Vokian Samerian, someone that used to serve the Nine Kingdoms as a Sergeant. Nowadays, I am nothing but a beggar, a worker who is asking for some food to fill his guts.”
“What happened here, Vokian?”
“A slaughter,” Vokian replied abruptly, “A gruesome massacre, about ten years ago. It began with the murder of a soldier and in nothing less than six days and five nights it was over.”
“Do you know who did it?”
“Yes,” he nodded, “the same monarch who rules with cruelty this town for the last nine years, Havief Ger.”
Daphne frowned in the hearing of the man’s name. She knew him. Havief Ger was wanted, dead or alive, for several murders and thefts in three of the Nine Kingdoms. Maybe I can pay him a visit, she thought and asked the ex-sergeant for the last time:
“Where can I find this Ger?”
“He has a mansion, two miles northeast from here. He is always in there, giving orders to his …” Vokian grimaced, “… men.”
“Let’s go there then.” She said with a smirk and started walking.
The ex-sergeant couldn’t be more precise in his estimation. Havief Gar’s mansion was exactly two miles from the former militia’s ruined building. Daphne could see that, the three-stored building behind the stone wall, with several races and gender’s heads pinned on metal spikes on its top, was the kingdom of a powerful monarch; an evil king, whom existence was unknown to the real rulers of the north. The main structure was of white stone and had four tall glass windows on each of its floors. There was a large iron gate in the center of the wall, and six enormous humans guarded it, all of them carrying fire pistols, rifles and thermal blades. Their faces were covered by a red bandana exposing only a pair of goggles over their eyes. Even though it was as easy as frying eggs for Daphne to make them disappear, she preferred to approach with a kindlier manner.
“Good evening, I am here to speak to your boss,” she said to the first man that stepped toward her.
“And who you might be?” he replied with a deep voice.
“I am just a passenger who seeks information. For a worthy reward, of course,” she smiled gently.
“Aren’t you too short to make demands?” one of the men near the gates mocked her, followed by his fellows’ laugh.
“Aren’t you too big to fit through that gate?” Daphne said firmly by raising an eyebrow, “both questions cannot be answered right now, probably another time.”
The next seconds would be a massacre if the communication panel next to the gate didn’t command everyone to cease their spirits.
“Bring the Gnome to my office.” an old and firm voice was heard. Then, almost simultaneously, two of the guards opened the gate, while one of them waived to Daphne follow him.
The interior of the mansion was more luxurious than Daphne expected. It seemed that Havief Ger, the Thug King of that location, had looted mercilessly every valuable artifact of Ramalia and kept it in his kingdom. Statues were standing in every corner; large tiles made of white marble were covering the floors, and thin gold bars were framing both the lower and higher parts of the walls. The most impressive fact about that mansion was not the decoration, but that everything had happened underneath the eyes of the Nine Kingdoms. He must have paid off a dozen of spies and possibly killed the double amount to achieve such a scheme, Daphne thought as she was walking into the large room.
Havief was sitting on a big chair, visibly bigger than his size, behind his desk; his thick silver eyebrows a straight line as he was looking at her. He nodded to the guard and commanded him to return to his duty. Afterwards, as soon as he and Daphne were alone in the room, he started speaking: “I always knew that one day someone would come here and confront me for what I have done in this place, but it never crossed my mind it would be one of the great Illusionists.”
“I am not here to confront you, Thug King. Unless you make me,” Daphne responded mockingly with one eyebrow raised, “I am here to propose a deal.”
“What deal?” Havief asked, bringing his right fist in front of his lips.
“It is simple. You are going to tell me where I can find Sirrius Thrett, and I am going to keep everything I saw on my way here a secret.”
“How do I know you are going to keep your promise Gnome? Your dedication to the Nine Kingdoms precedes your reputation.”
“It is not the North you need to be afraid, your exultancy,” she mocked again, “but what is crawling its way here from South.”
“Do you mean Demons?” Havief chuckled, “We have not got a single attack the last five years.”
Daphne shook her head, “This silence should be more frightening than having the entire Abysmal Army on your doorstep.” Her voice echoed through the room as she raised her tone, “But your greedy and blinded by power mind is keeping you away from realizing this danger.”
Havief remained silent for a long moment, and quickly a shroud of anger covered his face. He stood up furious and after slamming his fists on the desk, a dozen of his thugs stormed into the room, while they were pointing weapons on Daphne.
“My greedy mind, as you like to say Gnome, is now asking for more in exchange of the information you seek.” Havief’s lips exposed a line of five gold teeth, “More precisely, I want ten, no …” he shook his head spastically, “… I demand ten million Karanas to stop my men from turning you into a pile of junk metal and torn flesh. As for the information, you will have to come back here with an apology. Only then you will get it.”
“Do not challenge my patience, Thug King,” Daphne said with her gaze glued on Havief’s, “I do not have the time to spend with your sorry existence. There are many worst dangers than your pathetic joke, coming on my way.”
“I am not the joke here; you are!” Havief screamed while he was pointing his finger at her, “And soon you will be a funny story, which I will tell to my men while we enjoy our ales!”
The armed men who surrounded Daphne charged toward her location, but, unfortunately for them, she had already placed her magic trap. With superior speed, a tall mirror wall encircled the cyber-Gnome. Even though on its surface was reflecting Daphne’s attackers, the setting on the reflection was not the same as the room around them. It was a white domain, with no ceiling, floor, or walls visible. Any man, who stopped before reaching that wall, saw their friends and colleagues grabbed by long glass tentacles coming from inside the mirror, dragged into the other side. Anyone who decides to give up and run away from that massacre proved to be an intelligent man. For those who stayed to defend their king, who cowardly hid under his desk, their only fate was a painful death. Seconds after the first assault, the mirror wall shattered into thousand pieces across the room piercing their victims on their way. In the end, the only ones left alive were Daphne and Havief, who sat back in his chair with his eyes full of terror.
“You have five seconds,” Daphne said with an empty gaze, “After that if you have not told me what I asked, I will transform you into something ugly and permanent.”
The terrified Thug King nodded, “Head South by the Trail of Needlestones. After you reach the Twin Snakes crossroad, choose the one on your left. It will lead you to a small compound called Az’Mudlan. That place is occupied by Sicram Shiamans and a human; the one you are looking for.”
Finishing his words, Havief sighed in relief, as he saw Daphne slowly pacing toward the exit. That feeling of safety, though, would not continue for a long time, as a pain in his limbs made him lie on the floor and shook in agonizing screams.
“You do not deserve to be called a human,” Daphne sneered.
When Daphne exited the mansion, the outdoor area was unoccupied by guards. It seemed that Havief’s lackeys had chosen the wise path of staying out of her way. The only one standing there, in the middle of the double gate, was Vokian. He had his arms crossed, and his hood was not covering his face anymore. Unlike the last time Daphne saw him, he was smiling and nodding to her in acceptance.
“Good job,” he shouted, “now what?”
“Now you are going to get this place together again, Commander Vokian Samerian,” she replied as she approached him and passed him a set of keys.
“What are these?” he asked again gazing the keys in his palm.
“These are the keys for the militia station. You will have to build it and recruit new soldiers.”
“And how I am supposed to do that?” he demanded.
Daphne was ready to respond, but she stopped when something from above landed on her shoulder. Turning her gaze to the sky, she saw a bird flying over her head. She knew who it was, and she certainly knew what he had done. With a grimace painted with repulsion, she tried to wipe the bird crap from her cape.
“Before you do anything else, you have to shoot that bird down.” She said and made Vokian smirk, “Then you will have to find those that yearning to make a chance in this town. You will reestablish the Watchers and will send a request for additional soldiers in Londeon, by stating what have happened the past years. Use the money and treasures you will find in there …” she pointed the mansion behind her, “… to pay for a private messenger and all the cost. Probably, you will have a lot to keep this town financed for a long time.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I am going to meet someone important for the future of the North.”