Chapter 2: Merry

Where there is light, there is darkness. So it came to pass when the world’s light and hope gathered before the Demon Lord, a shadow was cast elsewhere. As the armies gathered for a final confrontation on the frontlines, manpower became lacking everywhere else.

Most gravely affected by this were those living on the outskirts, where beasts and bandits roamed, waiting for an opportunity to sate their hunger and greed. On an occasion such as this, with soldiers too few to stop them, they ran amok across the countryside. As the armies celebrated their victory, the villagers on the fringes lamented.

Crossing this ravaged region was a lone figure bearing the face of a child, its body hidden beneath tattered cloths. Finding such vulnerable prey, a band of highwaymen gathered around, not yet realizing their grave error.

“Leave all but one alive. To merge with the mind of a lowly being would not have been my first pick, but we must work with what we have.”

“Yes… Master…”

What ensued after was carnage most bloody, the highwaymen who thought they were the predator quickly turned to prey. None was able to escape and none was able to survive.

“I thought I said to leave one alive.”

“Sorry… Hungry…”

With the makeshift cloak stained red with blood, the creature marched onwards with the head of one of its victims in its grasp. With the creature’s powerful jaws, it cracked the skull and began to feast on the insides.

Eleven days did the creature travel without rest. With each moment that passed by, the Demon Lord’s Aether gradually dissipate within the creature’s body, becoming one with its Aether. As the Aether dissipate, so too did their sapience and control.

“If I do not find a suitable vessel soon, I will have to resign myself to live as a beast. Yet, there is no place in this world for this abomination born through the perverting of nature. How long can it survive on its own? How long will ‘I’ make it before ‘I’ am slain once more?”

As Demon Lord pondered upon the worst of possibilities, finding only bleakness in their future, the creature’s feet came to a stop.

“Master! Food!”

In the distance, further down the road, a fallen figure was sighted through the creature’s eyes. It appeared to be that of a woman.

“!!!”

“Master?”

“No, not food. We’ve found what we were looking for.”

The creature was compelled by the Demon Lord’s will to approach. As it did, the stench of rot wafted over along the light breeze. The scent caused drool to well up in the creature’s mouth. Despite having just eaten, the creature was hungry once more. It was only in the nature of the ‘Corpse Eater’ to ceaselessly crave the flesh of the rotting dead.

By the sharp ears of the Corpse Eater, a faint noise could be heard, a weak cry coming from the figure on the ground. With its clawed hands, it carefully turned the body on the ground over, revealing a small, delicate life, a baby boy hidden beneath.

“Still clinging to life I see. The will to live in this one is strong. This shall be perfect as a vessel.”

“Can’t eat?”

“No. Protect this one with your life.”

“…… Understand…”

With all the care in the world, the Corpse Eater carried the infant in its bloodied claws and continued down the muddy road, leaving the ravaged countryside behind and towards the relative safety of the central regions.

***

Located roughly a twenty-four days’ march away from the battlefield where the final battle against the Demon Lord took place, there was a small town that had once been established for mining. Eastcliff, it was called, for it was founded under a cliff east of the kingdom. As the mines ran dry, however, the population within this town gradually dwindled, leaving only a small number of households behind. Fortunately, what few people that were left behind managed to live off the land, maintaining the population and keeping the town from becoming a ghost town.

In the small town, there was a small temple run by mere two clergywomen. It was upon the doorsteps of this very building was the cry of an infant heard in the middle of the night. The infant was found wrapped in a bloodied cloth, left on the doorsteps by his lonesome self. Whoever had left him there was long gone.

Further away, a presence visited the long abandoned mine. Wrapped in tattered cloths, the creature called the Corpse Eater wandered into the mine, compelled by a dark force.

“Here?”

“No… Deeper … Go…”

On the verge of losing their sapience, the Demon Lord was about to commit its final act.

Too much of the corrupted Aether had dissipated into the Corpse Eater’s body during their travels. The Aether was meant to serve two purposes. To pass on the memories and experiences of the Demon Lord and to gradually alter the host’s body to suit the next incarnation. Having a none negligible amount of corrupted Aether dissipated throughout its body, the Corpse Eater was going to become a potential threat in the future.

The Demon Lord had two choices, to either have the Corpse Eater die here or seal it away until they had grown strong enough to command it. The latter option was chosen. It held risks, but those who cannot take risks when it was necessary would never be able to reach out and grasp victory when the opportunity presents itself. Though it would only possess fragmented and indecipherable memories, the Corpse Eater would no doubt have a body as strong as that of a Demon Lord. A servant with such power shall be useful if it can be controlled.

“Here?”

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“Yes… This… Good…”

In the depth of the mine, there was a perfect spot, sitting atop of a leyline, a flow of Aether beneath the earth. The stream of Aether within this leyline was small, but it was sufficient for this task. It was not as if they were sealing a true Demon Lord.

Injecting a wisp of corrupted Aether into the ground, the Demon Lord began to set up the seal.

“Master… I… Alone?”

“No… Will… Return…”

“Understand… I… Wait… Here… I… Be… Good…”

Soon enough, the seal started to take form as the space around the mine shaft began to twist and bend. From the ground, a bright light emerged, the light of concentrated Aether.

“Final… A gift… A name.”

“Master?”

“You… Merry… Understand? Merry…”

“Merry… I… Merry…”

“Good… Will… Return… Soon…”

At the very last minute, before the seal solidified, the Demon Lord ejected the corrupted Aether from the Corpse Eater and rushed out of the range of the seal, leaving the Corpse Eater, no, leaving Merry behind. She shall slumber within the seal till they meet again.

***

End of Chapter 2

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