Mors stared at his feet as they trudged through the thick snow, moving away from the outpost and feeling as if it reminded him of something, but then again, nearly everything seemed to remind him of something recently.
Ignoring the now familiar, irritating sensation, Mors looked around, only to notice the goblin girl, giggling madly as she tried to steal one of Ethemeusa's heat enchantments and sighed as he scratched the rapidly healing scar on the left side of his face. I wonder if I would have been happier not knowing anything. It doesn't seem to of affected her growth; she can already speak, if a little childish, and is on par with me in terms of speed and strength. Bloody summoned, a bunch of overpowered, happy go lucky, pansies.
Lost in his thoughts, Mors did not realise the group had stopped and ended up walking into the back of Kelora, who let out an irritated his and used her rear to violently push him back, causing him to fall backwards into the deepening snow.
The snow around him vibrated slightly as Mors growled at the demoness, who was grinning as if she had just witnessed the most amusing thing in her life before he got up and dusted himself off.
Mors ignored the smiling demoness and moved to the side only to find that they had stopped in front of two, semi-naked blue-skinned demons. After making sure they were not an immediate threat, Mors noticed that they closely resembled an average human, apart from the skin colour, small white horns and dark blue, tribal tattoos covering the majority of their bodies. "Who's the nudists?"
"That's rich coming from someone who is always burning their clothes and running around naked," frowned Velcea, disapproval evident on her face.
Verz had just placed a small bag into the larger demon's hand when he looked at Mors. "You know the rules about roaming demon males from other tribes? Don't think you can hide him with such shoddy enchantments."
"Yes," said Verz blandly as Kelora chuckled, giving Mors a knowing look that sent a shiver down his spine. "I was planning on staying at the fortress anyway as I have business with the Patriarch, Markek."
At the mention of their leader's name, not just his title, the other demon recognised Vers and immediately stiffened and saluted. "I am sorry Huntsmen Verz, I did not recognise you without your tribe's mask. We will lead you to the Patriarch immediately."
After Verz signalled that it was okay, both demons quickly turned around and led the way through the scattered pine trees, towards the mountain in the distance, the falling snow gradually getting heavier.
After half an hour, Vers noticed that Mors was struggling and was quickly tiring out. "Well, your are definitely not an ice demon. Want me to get Kelora to carry you?"
"How can demons exist so close to a human society that openly despises their existence?" responded Mors, ignoring Verz question on purpose as he ground his teeth and redouble his efforts.
Ethemeusa, who was feeling the cold and hugging the goblin girl intensely, started to explain as Verz rolled her eyes and marched ahead, leaving Mors behind. "As well as being the most peaceful and isolated demonic clan, the Ice Clan is also the strongest. Its royal family boasts a strength equal to that of any small nation or group of heroes, and due to the terrain, they are considered impossible to subjugate so have been left alone for centuries."
Mors was stumbling but somehow, managing to keep up. "That doesn't explain the difference in people's behaviour. In that last outpost, both Kelora and the snot were pretty much ignored, but before that, you could almost smell the hatred oozing from people. Even those healers and priests seemed pretty non-judgemental in comparison."
"The basin kingdoms realise that the Ice Clan are their best defence against any possible attack by the Federation and so try to keep on good terms. By doing so, they can station most of their troops in the south and eastern passes, dealing with the Demonic Plain's and the Empire," yawned Ethemeusa, showing that she was already bored with the conversation. "And by being so close to the demon stronghold, anyone with intense hatred would be forced to leave or been killed pretty quickly."
"Awesome," hissed Mors. "Not only are the kingdoms religious fanatics, but they are also selective in their beliefs."
Ethemeusa shrugged. "Why do you think demons like Kelora and yourself are able to join the Huntsmen, Adventurers Guild and other groups? It's because you are useful. Survival always trumps ideals, even in times of so-called peace and not everyone is a fanatic, you just got unlucky."
Watching the two chatting from the corner of his eye, the smaller demon slowed his pace until he was walking next to Verz. "I hope you don't mind me asking, Huntsmen, but why does the halfbreed wear an enchanted blindfold if he can see through it?"
Verz turned her head and looked at the ice warrior, his faintly glowing, blue eyes displaying no iris or pupil. "He's a little grouchy when people comment on his heritage, and I was sick of the issues it caused; same reason as for why he is wearing the headband that hides his horns and aura. Him not being able to see was just an added bonus but seems like he got around that somehow."
"Of course, even if he is a half-breed, he's still a demon," declared the guard as it was the most natural thing in the world before quickly catching up with his comrade, his curiosity sated.
After a few miles, in which Mors was now almost doubled over with exhaustion, an imposing, ice fortress came into view. Its towers and snow covered ramparts, ascending high into the sky and disappearing into the dark-grey clouds.
"The only way to cross the mountains other than the three valleys," said Rock, seeing the bemused look on Mors' face as he attempted to catch his breath. "The dwarfs tried to mine through it once, only to stumble across a chaos vine and die miserable deaths. The Ice Clan, due to their natural affinity with the climate, simply built over and charge anyone wishing to cross. This citadel rises to the top of the mountain and meets at the peak with the northern citadel, I think there's probably 500 meters of exposed ground to cross, just in case one of them were to fall."
Mors nodded his head, not really caring due to feeling extremely heavy and tired, even more so than normal. I guess this lack of sleep is really starting to get to me. Seeing as Verz said we would be staying here, I should try and find some alcohol and drink myself into a stupor. It might not be good sleep, but drunken sleep is sleep none the less.
After another hour, the group walked past large gates made of dark blue ice, at least fifteen feet thick and into the citadel and were immediately bathed in a cool, blue hue from the many mana stones embedded into the ceiling and walls.
Before Mors could thoroughly analyse his surroundings, he was ushered, with the rest of the group, down long, winding corridors, occasionally passing a broad range of blue demons, carrying on with they day to day lives, completely ignoring the group.
Most similar to the two guides that were leading them, however, every now and again, large hulking, crystal-like demons, carrying an assortment of heavy weaponry, and extremely thin, almost see through females with golden, glowing eyes could be seen.
"Why are there different types of demon?" asked Mors as he looked around. "Surely if they are the same species they should look the same?"
The group looked at him as if he were stupid before remembering that he was only a week and three days old and should be behaving like the snoring goblin in Ethemeusa's arms.
Ethemeusa, always wanting to show off her knowledge, came to his rescue. "The Crystal Demons and Winter Witches that you can see are the typical third evolutionary trait of ice demons and relatively common. The Patriarch is a Crystal Giant, a variant of Crystal Demon, while his wife is an Ice Queen, one of the rarest ice demon evolutionary subspecies. Both are incredibly powerful, especially in cold environments. The rest are standard ice demons or weaker variants."
"Evolutions?" questioned Mors.
The Lamia could not be bothered to answer Mors' 'simple' questions. "You will find out when the Huntsmen training starts. Every adept must have an advanced knowledge of the world to survive, and I can't be bothered to waste my breath here when I am going to have to repeat myself later."
After an almost silent growl at Ethemeusa, Mors kept to himself but it wasn't long before the group approached enormous, ornate doors and he felt an immense pressure causing his skin to tingle and his feet to slow, silently moving to the back of the group.
Turning around to the group and spotting Mors' reaction, the larger demon guide smiled. "Seems like his senses are pretty good for a hybrid. This is one of the first trials we throw at our younglings to see if they have the instincts to become scouts or are instinctually brain dead and have to join the Warrior rank. He would be one of the front-runners this year. Most have to get to the doors before they can sense the danger."
"Pfft, just because you get to actually enjoy fighting instead of having to do it as efficiently as possible, you think you're better than us," snarled his comrade, apparently a disgruntled warrior.
Mors frowned, finding it strange that being a scout was more glorified than a warrior but then he started to wonder why he would think that, adding yet more questions to his already extensive mental list.
The doors creak open, causing a thin layer of ice to fall, and the escorts stepped aside allowing Verz and her group to enter a circular room, encircled by over twenty, heavily armoured guards, their helms only revealing their glowing blue eyes making them appear incredibly intimidating.
Verz was the first to step into the room, followed by Mors, who had instantly felt disgusted with himself for being such a coward and resolved to push forward, causing both of the guides eyebrows to rise in surprise. The other huntsmen, all trying to resist the urge to snigger, quickly followed causing an even greater shock. Most people entering their Primarchs throne room would be subdued and overly cautious, and even though the Huntsmen were renowned for their frivolous, non-caring behaviour, it still was shocking that they would act so presumptuously in front such an overpowering aura.
"Don't think about it too much," said the warrior. "Every single one of them, even that copper rank demon stink of death and move with a warriors purpose. Even though they are weaker than the royal guard, I bet they would give them a run for their coin."
- He who stares into the abyss
Bio: Company Director, Software engineer, gamer, snowboard instructor, proud father of two insomniacs and all round philomath. My Works: The Book of Mors: Summoned [http://royalroadl.com/fiction/8312/the-book-of-mors-summoned] The Summoned: [http://royalroadl.com/fiction/11348/the-summoned] The Forgotten Hero: [http://royalroadl.com/fiction/11721/the-forgotten-hero]