Several slaves grunted in unison as they carried a relatively heavy chair with a base made of thick wood. The back of the chair which was similar to a throne was made of a more flexible wood for comfort and the seat itself was heavily cushioned in order to provide maximum comfort to the one seated.
Aleks was lounging on this very throne, deep in thought while he was being carried around by the slaves. He didn’t particularly enjoy these types of things and in fact didn’t very much like the idea of slavery to begin with. Slavery was something which had long disappeared in his original world, at least on the surface, and the ideas of freedom had long been ingrained in the people. Of course, this didn’t mean the people actually possessed freedom themselves, but they sure loved to tout their ideas about the freedoms they believed themselves to have.
There was plenty of irony to be had in this situation, but Aleks didn’t care much for it. This was how he was expected to act, even if he had taken it to somewhat of an extreme. This was helpful to him though, because the more extreme those around him thought he was, the less of a threat he would seem. No one feared a fool who was filled with excessive arrogance. If some flattery, a show of strength, an offer of reward or a play on their hubris was enough to manipulate such a person, wouldn’t they be easy to deal with? This was the very image he had shown to his current rivals and competitors.
“Put me down here, this is a good place to watch from.” Aleks ordered the slaves carrying him on the throne.
They placed him down gently, very careful not to cause him any discomfort. Other than the slaves who were responsible for carrying his throne, there were also female slaves responsible for his needs in his entourage. They would make sure that anything Aleks needed would be quickly brought to him and they would serve him his food and drink whenever he needed it. They would also fan him and provide him with any other service he desired, although at the most he would have them massage him. He wasn’t interested in their charms, none of them could truly move his desire. His desire was only for power, the power to change his fate.
“Nelay, I know you are near. Show yourself.” Aleks whispered to no one in particular.
Nelay soon appeared without delay. No one had seen where she had appeared from or how. One moment there was no one there and the next, Nelay was gently approaching Aleks’s throne.
“Yes master.” She said with a respectful tone and her head bowed.
“Do you have any new information for me?”
“Not much master, but it appears they will soon be ready to begin the expedition.” Nelay whispered in Aleks’s ear.
“It seems that all of the stragglers have been removed or have already aligned themselves with a faction then. How many factions are there now? Who is the strongest?”
“It should be obvious that the Aerthian Pantheon has the strongest presence, but the Anunnaki of each faction are not involved in this crusade. As for the Northern pantheon of gods, they are second in strength and influence. The others are marginally weaker. There are five factions in total.”
“Five factions… The Anunnaki are the ten most powerful gods of a pantheon and usually are at the least mid Greater gods. It seems that this time they are offering up the Steppes to some of the weaker gods among the various pantheons and those unaffiliated. In the last crusade, the more powerful gods, like Tihr, gained quite a bit. This must be a form of consolation to those who could not benefit much from the last crusade. The Northern pantheon especially it seems, since they gained nothing previously. Mimir is actually a Greater god but only a lower one, nonetheless his might is quite substantial. The fact that he is allowed to participate in this crusade tells us something. He is also quite closely aligned with Wotan, the High god of the Northern pantheon. As for the other factions, they are just a ragtag bunch, nothing worthy of note. They aren’t even a part of any pantheon but nominally belong to others or are loose gods. A pantheon can only be established by a High god, and there are very few of them to begin with.”
Aleks seemed to be speaking to himself but Nelay didn’t dare show any disrespect and listened attentively. She was intrigued however, the politics of the realm of gods was not something she was normally privy too. How her master knew so much she didn’t know, but then again her master did possess otherworldly powers even though he hadn’t yet fully ascended to godhood.
“I will consider these further at another time, for now let us watch.”
Aleks pointed towards a makeshift ring that had been set up from wooden posts around a relatively large area for combat purposes. Lenia was currently facing off against five peak Intermediate class beings she had chosen to act as commanders. They had surrounded her and were cautiously approaching with their weapons at the ready. The slaves were very clear of the power difference but felt they might pose a chance if they surrounded Lenia. Even if they lacked in strength, they didn’t lack in battle experience.
“The training is coming along well, although these slaves were already experienced in battle. They only lack discipline and loyalty, both essential for any army.”
Nelay listened silently and watched Lenia bash her shield into one of the slave warriors before striking another to her left. Their attempt to surround her was unsuccessful as her strength was too great, but they were quick to adapt and fought to the best of their ability. Lenia specialized in defense so even with the five of them, they couldn’t touch her.
“She is truly talented, give her some time and she will absolutely become a master class being!” A loud booming voice could be heard soon followed by laughter.
A slave rushed over to Aleks’s side but stepped back in fear when Nelay gave the slave a murderous look.
“I’m sorry master, we couldn’t stop them from entering.” He nervously said while bowing in obiesance.
Aleks only lightly looked towards the three approaching burly men who he had now become quite familiar with. He of course already knew of their presence but there was no need to state it. He only nodded his head with approaching figures in indifference.
“You have returned. I wasn’t expecting you today. My apologies for the lack of a respectful welcome.”
Archbishop Ragnir chuckled despite Aleks disrespectful behavior. Naturally, being a high ranking church official, Aleks should have at the least come down from his throne and greeted him with the respect he deserves. However, Aleks had never shown any deference towards the Archbishop. The Archbishop didn’t seem to mind the lack of respect, he was much more concerned with one’s strength than with one’s manner. Nonetheless, the two master class being twins beside him were not pleased with Aleks’s behavior.
“I have only come to admire your powerful subordinates on a whim after all, it is to be expected.” Ragnir waved it off and motioned towards his subordinates to calm themselves.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”
Archbishop Ragnir smiled and looked around briefly before clasping his hands in front of his stomach, “I happened to hear an interesting story in passing and thought I would share. We are now allies after all and I am putting a lot of faith in you.”
Although Ragnir’s words seemed friendly, there was a certain slyness in his eyes that Aleks did not fail to see. Instead of responding, he waited for Ragnir to continue.
“I remembered an old tale that I heard years ago now. As a humble servant of Wotan, the Great Father and benefactor of warriors, war is always something of great interest to me. Over the past few days I have been pondering an event that took place which I had great admiration for. It involves a young general of great renown overcoming a much greater foe, saving a nation, winning fame and fortune and in the end even gaining the interest of many a noble lady. Of course, in the end he turned all of it down for an old friend and a child. I believe you know who I am referring to.”
Aleks listened attentively and was unsure where he was going with his story at first but it didn’t take long for him to realize the point of his narration.
“What do you want? Is there a need for word games, just state your intention.”
Ragnir gave an expression as if he were hurt by Aleks’s lack of faith in his well placed intentions, but he was only putting on a show.