Chapter 43

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The lizardman chieftain pulled a chair out from underneath the rectangular wooden table in its residence. His tail rose and draped over the seatback as he sat down and crossed his arms over his chest. Raea hesitated as she glanced at the remaining chair, which had blood stains running down its sides, before she took a seat across from the lizardman. She sat at the edge and placed her hands in her lap. “Will anyone else be joining us?”

The chieftain’s lips curled upwards. “All the elders were killed in the night,” he said as his tongue flickered in and out of his mouth. “I make all the decisions. The shadow hunter has given me his approval.”

The corner of Raea’s lip twitched at the mention of Palan’s new title. The rest of her group came through the door and stood behind her, except Palan who sat on the chieftain’s bed and rested his back against the wall. The tattooed lizardman frowned, but didn’t say anything as he stared at the armored demon. “What have you come to discuss?”

“I would like for you to become my subordinate,” Raea said, getting straight to the point. Her blue eyes stared at the chieftain. He blinked a few times before tilting his head while parting his lips. He uncrossed his arms and drummed his fingers on the top of the table, leaving marks in the wood.

“What does that entail?” the chieftain asked as he straightened his back and leaned forward, narrowing his eyes at the angel sitting across from him. His voice was deeper than usual. His tongue rolled out of his mouth and wet his lips before retracting.

“I want you to submit to me,” Raea said. “You will follow my orders and cease your attacks on the angels and surrounding halfling communities. I promise I will not abuse my authority over you and I will not use you or your people as slaves.”

“You just wish for us to cease our aggressions?” the chieftain asked and blinked as he leaned back against the seat, moving his tail to the side to make space. “What sort of things would you ask of me?”

“An occasional taxation of supplies is all I ask for: lumber, ores, essence stones. The amount depends on how much your city is able to produce,” Raea said.

The chieftain hummed as he closed his eyes. A minute passed before he smiled and opened them again. “I can give you ores,” he said. “But just ores. Our tribe has recently taken over a nearby mine and enslaved the goblins inside.”

“So you are willing?” Raea asked. She blinked. Underneath her calm demeanor was a racing heart that threatened to jump out of her chest. She hadn’t expected it to be so easy, even with Palan’s assurances.

The chieftain nodded. “Yes, yes,” he said. “We will make peace with each other. We will cease our aggressions against our neighbors, and we will give you monthly tributes of ores. May I ask for this savior’s name? This one”—he gestured towards himself—”is called Nazgar.”

“I am Raea Caelum,” Raea said and nodded. “I am glad this was settled peacefully.”

Nazgar eyed the dried blood on Raea’s chair. “Yes,” he said and chuckled. His voice lowered. “Peacefully indeed.”

“I have one more request to make,” Raea said as she took in a deep breath.

“Ask,” Nazgar said and gestured outwards with his clawed hands. “I will do my best to fulfill your wish.”

“This may seem disrespectful, but I wish to have your previous chieftain’s and Anidun’s bodies,” Raea said, her hands were white as she clenched them beneath the table. “I need to bring back proof to my superior that I have accomplished what he asked for.”

Nazgar raised an eyebrow. “Why would that be disrespectful?” he asked. He turned towards the door. “Brutii! Get in here.” The door creaked open and one of Nazgar’s guards lumbered through. “Did we incinerate the dead yet?”

Brutii shook his head. “There’s been too many deaths. We’ve been waiting for them to slow down.”

Nazgar nodded and gestured towards Raea. “Take her to the corpse shed. She wants to retrieve two bodies,” he said. Raea’s brow furrowed, but she didn’t say anything. Owen frowned beneath his visor.

“You do not bury your dead?” Owen asked. Nazgar blinked at him.

“No. We burn them as an offering to Elbegon.”

“I see,” Owen said, his reply terse, as he dipped his head downwards.

“Is that all?” Nazgar asked. His eyes narrowed at Owen as he drummed his fingers across the table.

“Yes,” Raea said and nodded. She turned towards Brutii. “Please, lead the way.” She stood up and hesitated before turning back towards the chieftain. “I forgot. I would like you to prepare six mounts.” Nazgar nodded and Raea left the room followed by the angels and dire wolf. Palan was the last to exit, but not before staring at Nazgar through his visor. A chill ran down the lizardman’s spine as the door closed behind the armored demon.

“What do you need Anidun’s corpse for?” Palan asked as he walked next to Raea.

“To give him a proper burial,” Raea said as she glanced at Palan’s visored face. “Regardless of his betrayal, he was still an archangel that dedicated decades of his life to our society. Even traitors deserve proper burial rites.” Palan grunted. Raea couldn’t tell what her demon was thinking through his visor.

The group arrived in front of a shed that smelled like carrion. Brutii plugged his nose and opened the pair of double doors. Raea gagged as the smell overpowered her. Brutii gestured inside. “Take what you want,” he said and walked away. “Don’t forget to close the doors on your way out.”

“And we just took a bath,” Raea mumbled as some tears formed in the corner of her eyes from the stench. The group stared into the shed, their bodies unwilling to move. Palan snorted and walked up to the pile of corpses before going around it. A few bodies flew into the air before Palan came back outside with the previous chieftain’s and Anidun’s corpses. The dead archangel’s body was torn open and hollowed out, missing all of its organs.

The four angels stared in surprise at Palan’s quick actions. Raea asked, “How did you know where they were?” Palan chucked the two corpses at Owen before closing the door to the shed. Owen made a face, but caught them, smearing his polished armor with rotting flesh and entrails.

“You really want to know?”

Raea glanced at Anidun’s body and saw bite marks on his white bones. “I think I already figured it out,” she said, her voice quavering. “I’m going to be sick.”

“Can we leave? Please?” Cleo asked, her voice nasally. She was pinching her nose with both her hands. Even Emergency Victuals had its nose buried in the ground.

“Yes,” Raea said as she half-jogged, half-walked away from the shed. The group saw Brutii waiting for them with six boars, wearing saddles, behind him. He gestured at the animals.

“The mounts you asked for,” Brutii said, avoiding the group while breathing through his mouth. Raea nodded.

“We will be leaving then.”

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