“And so… the provisional application of supplies will be carried out separately by the demon and the human parties for the remainder of these peace hearings. Do you, General Maford, agree and sign this?” A lanky person with elf ears spoke on in a droning voice.
General Maford snorted as if he just woke up, and the shook his head up and down. “Yes, yes… let’s just get this over with.”
“And for you, lord Typhoon-“
“All this agreement is saying is that as long as our armies sit on the border, we’ll be responsible for feeding our side and they will be responsible for feeding their side. Was this really necessary to waste the last hour on such things?” Lord Typhon sounded irritated.
The tall elf seemed completely unperturbed by being snapped at. “It is only natural that for the peace treaty to continue, that rules be set down to prevent the talks from facing complications. It could take weeks, or even months for the two of you to settle on an agreement.”
“Weeks?” Maford’s sleep eyes widened at that.
“Months?” Typhon shouted at the same time.
“Both parties have agreed to make the elvish tribe the arbiters of your talks. Given our nature, it is in our best interest that both sides put away their differences and make peace. I’m only doing what is necessary to ensure this happens.” The elf explained, and then held up a cup, “Water, please.”
This was a massive tent place right on the border between the demon and human realm. It was filled with various humans on one side and demons on the other, all ready to discuss the prerequisites for peace. I immediately came forward from the edge of the tent and filled the man’s water cup.
If I had known I would be in the middle of these peace talks, I might have run away, to hell with the death curses and the slave collars. This was the place I least wanted to be in the entirety of both realms. Lord Typhon was treating me casually as his slave, while King Devon was shooting me occasional heavy looks as if to remind me that I was truly under his command. The only thing that helped me keep my sanity was a small army of goblins and wolves based in a farmhouse a few miles outside of town. I had made that place my sanctuary using my abilities. I reckoned that as long as I was there, I would be almost impossible to bring down. As long as I could lead any monster into my home, I could possess their will with ease.
However, that was for later. At the moment, I was just trying to make sure that my throat didn’t get cut. The demons and humans were glaring at each other quite hatefully, and it was a wonder that the peace talks ever made it this far. Any moment, violence could break out, and I’d be at the center. I wasn’t a coward to such things. More, I was just being cautious. I didn’t want any other close calls in my life. Although, what I wanted and what life set out for me never seemed to match, and as I poured the water quietly, the general’s gaze landed on me.
“A human slave?” He said, his voice rising in anger. “You dare strut a human slave in front of us?”
General Maford was a fat man with many wrinkles on his face. He had a big beard and an even bigger stomach. However, his beady eyes were sharp, and it was clear to anyone who saw him that he had earned his right to be called a general on the battlefield. He held a certain degree of bloodlust that only someone who had killed many people in cold blood before could master. I had also heard that his looks were deceiving, and despite his size, he was still very nimble, on the battlefield and in bed. Currently, his bloodlust was directed at me.
The atmosphere in the tent grew tense immediately. Guards standing along both sides, demon, elf, and human, were all stroking their swords, ready to battle. In a single moment, people could be dying all around me. My brain shot through my list of skills once again. I started trying to form a plan to cut the tension, however, Lord Typhon broke in a moment later, cutting a sharp end to my stray thoughts.
“You’re are right, it was completely inexcusable for us to collar this woman.” Lord Typhon spoke up suddenly.
General Maford narrowed his eyes and glared suspiciously. “What are you on about?”
Lord Typhon snapped his finger, and a moment later a magic user came in. He went up to me without hesitation and lifted his hands to my neck. I lifted my neck on command. The hair rose on my arms for a moment as magic was cast, and then the collar came off with a click. Like that, the damn slave collar that had been stuck on me for longer than I cared to remember fell harmlessly to the ground. I touched my neck, well aware that the death curse the humans had inflicted me with was of a higher caliber than the one put on Jenai, and left no tangible lines.
“I wish to free this slave, as a gesture of goodwill for our peace talks.”
It was abundantly clear that Lord Typhon had already planned this all out. I wasn’t aware of it, but a magic user who specialized in slave collars doesn’t just show up with you snap your fingers normally. I shot Lord Typhon a glare, but he completely ignored me. It couldn’t be that… Did he know about the death curse? If that was the case, why would he free me? Wouldn’t simply killing me in private me a safer option?
General Maford was still glaring, but he nodded, scratching his straggly beard. “Very well, I suppose we will accept your offer. Beautiful girl, you are no longer a slave of those demons. The human realm has rescued you!”
He made it sound glorious like he personally ripped off my chains of oppression. However, I was thinking about it a little more deeply. Looking between the demon realm and the human realm, I didn’t know which side was safer. The humans had put a curse on me and ordered me to kill Typhon. I was responsible for so many noble deaths, that I could just about call myself an outlaw. That said, the demon realm was a harsh realm that while I tolerated humans, it also enslaved many of them.
“Well, girl?” General Maford didn’t seem to be a patient man, as he immediately slammed his hand on the table. “Get over here and show us your praise.
“If I may, GGeneral.” Devon stepped forward, finally speaking up. “Perhaps we should ask the girl who she wants to stay with, the humans or the demons.”
“Devon!” The General looked over at him wearing some disdain on his face. “Don’t fancy yourself a King in this tent. Your country was dragged to ruin. After you requested the aid of a dozen other countries; Nadia isn’t even a Kingdom anymore. The only reason you were sent overseas to this war was so that they could get rid of you! So, sit in a corner, shut up, and let the grownups talk.”
Devon watched the General stiffly and then nodded. He gave me an expressionless look before turning and sitting back down. There were a couple of snickers in the tent, but only a few. The General didn’t seem to be aware of Devon’s assassination plan. That much was clear at least. There were factions on both sides. Some that seemed to want to end the war, and others that wanted to continue it. As for me, I just wanted to stay out of it, but this world had never cared about what I wanted.
“Aria here has been my maid for some time.” Lord Typhon suddenly spoke up, sipping some tea calmly. “Of course, I’d be happy to hire her as my servant, if that is what she wants.”
“Unacceptable!” The General slapped the table again. “I will not leave a human woman in the hands of demons!”
While this conversation went on, I tried to get my bearings straight on what exactly Lord Typhon’s goal was in letting me go. Was it merely as he said, a gesture to placate an angry general? If that’s the case, why didn’t he tell me this? If he knew about the death curse, was he just trying to throw it in Devon’s face? It seemed like as far as the armies went, Devon truly had little influence. Other than knowing the hero, he didn’t seem to have much else going for him.
At the very least, he knew that the collar had no effect on me. That would mean… these last two days must have been a test! That’s right. He basically gave me the freedom to go wherever I wanted. Since the collar didn’t work, I could have fled the second I left his sight. I could have run to the humans and had them remove the collar for me. I could have sold my knowledge of their troops or Lord Typhon himself. Perhaps, these last two days, he just wanted to see where my loyalty was. Since the collar was meaningless, it was my actions he was most concerned about.
Thinking back to the last two days, I had done many things. Exactly how much did he know? Did he know about those two soldiers I boinked? Did he know about my bet with the hero and our mini-battle? Did he know about me being held by Devon? He couldn’t know about my monsters, could he? I shook my head. Thinking about all the things he could possibly know was too terrifying. What was important was that taking off my collar didn’t change the relationship I had with him. In a conversation I had listened in on in the tent, he had said that I could be an ally. Was this what this was?
Just as I was about to speak up, the tall elf man suddenly spoke. “If I may be so bold as to offer a solution. In the grand scheme of this peace treaty, this woman is insignificant.”
I frowned but didn’t respond. It wasn’t like I didn’t understand what he meant. What could I do to change the face of this event? I was just a single slavegirl. However, being dismissed in this way already made my hackles rise. It made me wonder if perhaps elf culture looked down on women. Min was beautiful and powerful, but she also ran away from home. Was she supposed to be a homemaker? Was that the reason that she ended up dressing like a man so willfully?
“What is your suggestion, elf?” the elf moderator had caught the general’s attention.
“Simple. The girl will stay in the elf tribe. She will remain apart from either the demons or the humans. Is this acceptable to the pair of you?”
Lord Typhon shrugged as if it was no matter of his own. The General grunted and gave a nod of affirmation. Devon shot me a look but smartly remained silent. I suspected I’d be getting word from him soon now that his plan was completely disrupted. I couldn’t say I wasn’t pleased with this after he forced a death curse on me. The last person their eyes fell on was me personally.
“Ah? Uh, yes. I’d be happy to visit the elf tribe for a while.”
In fact, it was honestly what I wanted. Min had died, and I wanted to go back to the place she grew up. If for no other reason, I felt like I needed some closure. She had left my life so abruptly, that perhaps seeing the life she grew up and learning how she got there would do me some good. At the very least, it got me away from this high-stress place where the battle could begin at any moment.
“Very well.” The moderator nodded, also making a gesture.
A handsome elf walked into the room. He was an older man, like lord Typhon, but he had much less gristle and far fairer skin. Elves aged a lot slower than humans, so it was possible he was several thousand years old, but he could have been as young as thirty to my eyes. Eyeing my escort up and down, I thought that this wasn’t a bad change after all. A new place, a new man, and the freedom to keep building my army of monsters. What more could I ask for?
When the elf saw me, he stopped and gave me a wide-eyed look. “It’s you then, is it? You’re a beautiful woman… the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen perhaps? She warned me, but I didn’t think it’d be so soon.”
“I’m sorry, what was that?” I asked, giving a wry smile and holding out my hand. “Um, thank you for the compliment, I’m Aria.
“The name’s Baron…” He said, frowning, and I guess I’ll be taking care of you… not that I have a choice. Hahahahaha…”
Before long, I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying.