Devon Hyburn, the former King of Nidia, had lost his country. One might be able to argue that he never had a country in the first place. He was originally the 4th in line to the throne, and his father and brothers were all deviants who used their position of power to play. For some time, this was sufficient to keep the country popular. Aristocrats would visit the country frequently, for no other reason than to engage in sometimes depraved sex games with captured citizens.
The country was like a fruit with a rotten core. It was only a matter of time before the rot spread to the surface. However, that wasn’t what happened. Rather, a certain woman appeared and ripped a chunk out of the apple, exposing the rot herself, even while it poisoned herself. That woman was only known as Aria.
For a time, Devon had thought her to be a servant of the Demons, sent to Nidia to destabilize the human countries. This was reinforced when he actually finally found her, as a slave under the control of a General under their Demon King. Yet, after investigation, he found that Aria was only recently enslaved, and she was just as much a mystery to the demons as she was to him. Where did she come from? What did she want? These were questions that burned inside him, but even if he asked her for an answer, he wasn’t certain he’d get the truth.
She was a woman who could lie without blinking, and who killed without regret. She was as beautiful and loving as a goddess, and as vengeful and cold as a devil. After she had wiped the majority of the nobility, other countries immediately made their move. Nidia was conquered in only three months. There wasn’t a single battle. It was all done as trades, negotiations, and sacrifices. The remaining lords gave their loyalty to new kings, and by the end of it all, Devon only remained a King in name. In reality, he was a noble under the Empress of the Cadence Empire. Even this much was a kindness, as they could just have easily had him killed.
Then, shortly after becoming the pawn of an empire, he was sent across the sea to the Demon Realm. He was to remain here for ten years. Supposedly, if he did a proper job defending the human realm from the demons, he’d be given land and returned to the status of a high lord, if not a king. Once again, this was an extreme kindness. Yet, Devon had always known he was only here as a patsy. If things went wrong, it wouldn’t be General Maford who took the blame. It would be Devon.
If things went well, there was a chance Devon would come out of this on top. If things went bad, Devon wasn’t certain he’d even be able to keep his head. Then she appeared again, Aria. She felt like a harbinger of things to come. When he saw her there, standing in a tent, he had immediately acted without thought. He had captured her and did the only thing he could. When he realized she was a slave of Lord Typhon, this caused a wave across the human camp.
It was Lord Maford who had instructed him to curse Aria. It was also him who ordered that she kill Lord Typhoon. Devon did as he was told, partially because he didn’t think such a thing would be a problem for her. After all, she had killed so many men in the past. If she killed General Typhoon, then maybe he wouldn’t have to take her life after all. The country that had a price on her head no longer existed, and deep down, Devon didn’t want to hurt her.
He knew what she was capable of doing. He knew that she was warming General Typhon’s bed. All she had to do was spread her legs and use the Black Widow ability, and then Devon could bring her back home. She said that she sided with the humans, right? This was a minor thing.
At least, that was what she thought. Then General Maford had suddenly grown enraged that she was imprisoned with a slave collar and made a point of having her sent off to the elves. Devon was completely shocked by this development. Eventually, he realized he was being used. Aria was just another bargaining chip that Lord Maford was using. Devon just didn’t understand what he wanted to do with her.
Unfortunately, the man had all the information about Aria. He knew what she was capable of, but he completely underestimated the woman. No matter how much Devon tried to warn him not to use her as a ploy, he was convinced she was just a woman who could be easily controlled. Thus, Devon was stuck in place, forced to watch as his superior slowly turned this situation into a mess. On the surface, everything seemed to be going according to plan, but since Aria was involved, Devon knew that was impossible.
I was only when Aria revealed that Lord Typhon was aiming for peace that Devon began to piece together the truth. This wasn’t truly a peace talk. It was a talk in name only. This was actually a coup! The Demon realm was using humans to destabilize the Demon King and cause him to lose his position. General Maford had known about this from the beginning. Aria was just one piece being used to try to knock out the strongest Demon King supporter.
When he heard General Maford’s plan succeeded, and that Aria was going to be killed, it was only a matter of time until the first shots were fired. He knew for certain that she hadn’t assassinated Lord Typhon. It was clearly a trick of the Truthsayer. Devon never thought he’d be the one who started this conflict, yet he found himself betraying his very country. Early that morning, he had led an attack on the demon camp. His aim was to save Aria before her execution. Yet, after fighting his way there, she wasn’t present. In her place hung the body of some old prostitute.
General Maford had set him up. It wasn’t just Aria that was being played. Somehow, he knew Devon would act in this manner as well. The plan was rather simple. Push Aria on the elves so that her loyalties are unclear. Set up Aria to kill General Typhon. Create an agreement that made it look like the pair were going to finalize the peace treaty, using Aria’s head as the final chip. Then, they could watch as Devon broke her out. They had played him perfectly. Even her punishment that had echoed what was done to her in the past was set up to insight him to act.
The plan was almost perfect, except that Aria seemed to have escaped on her own in advance. The demon and human side didn’t care about that. They had their war. It looked on the surface like they had both done everything they could to prevent it. If it wasn’t for that duo, a prostitute assassin, and her fallen prince, then it would have never come to this. Devon could already imagine how the story would twist to the pair of them set this all up from the start. After all, Devon had the closest ties to her. By trying to save her, they were clearly working together.
That was how Devon ended up in the middle of a field on his knees, with a sword at his neck. There was an army of demons behind him, and the army of humans in front of him. The moment the demon cut off his head, the battle would begin. It was all for show. To most of the troops, whatever Devon had done, it was a matter of human pride that a demon not kill one of their lords. However, Devon was low enough in status that his death was basically meaningless.
As for the demons, they were enraged at losing Typhon, and Devon was a representation of the woman who had killed her. She was well-liked in the demon camp, supposedly, which made her escape all the more enraging due to her betrayal. That would also be taken out on Devon’s neck. Perhaps, they had been told that Devon had contributed to her escape. Lies were like dirt. You’d never think of it in a fair fight, but if you fling enough of it, you’re bound to blind your opponent.
“How are things proceeding?” the Truthsayer asked a man who had run up with a report in his hand.
“The elves claim to know the whereabouts of Aria. They will be bringing her over shortly.”
“Send someone to hurry them up!” He barked. “I’d like to get this over with before noon.
“Yes, my lord.” The man bowed.
The Truthsayer looked down at Devon and sneered. “It looks like you get to live just a while longer. No worries. I’ll send you along to the next world with your dearest.”
“You won’t catch her…”
“You think far too much of a simple woman.” He chuckled.
“There are things about her you don’t know…”
“Hmph… that she’s good at manipulating people?” He leaned closer. “Or are you talking about Black Widow.”
Devon’s shocked expression betrayed him.
“Yes, it’s a rather nasty curse, but it’s just a curse. The men worth saving have already been cured. That little disease of hers that decimated your pathetic country will only serve to help us cull those of low demonic breed. If anything, she’s done us a favor.”
They had even thought of that! Devon could only angrily bite his tongue. They had used Aria’s strongest ability to just get rid of Lord Typhon enthusiasts. After all, who would want to punish her more than those who were closest to Lord Typhon? They knew about her killing ability from reports, and they had used them to their own advantage. A sense of hopelessness began to wash over Devon. They really had thought of everything.
As Devon was lowering his head in defeat, a commotion was spreading throughout the troops. It wasn’t just the demon side, but the humans on the opposite side of the battlefield seemed to move around too. The Truthssayer noticed this and spun around angrily.
“What is it? What’s going on?”
One of the higher-ranked men stepped forward and bowed his head. “Sir, the city of Whitewinter.”
Devon glanced up in the direction of the city, about an hour ride away. There was a massive cloud billowing it out.
“There is one coming from the elf tribe too!” Someone shouted.
Low and behold, a much small cloud was also coming in the distance about where the elf tribe was. For the smoke to be this noticeable, their fires had to be quite large. In fact, it’d have to be at the level that the city was burning to the ground. The demons shot looks at the humans, while the humans shot looks at the demons. Both wanted to blame the other side for this attack. Whitewinter was neutral ground, just as much as the elf tribe. If they were both burning, then someone had done something that went against the codes of war. However, most were smart enough to see that the humans were just as confused as the demons. But, if neither side attacked the city, who would?
“The camps too!” Another voice shouted.
“Get a message to camp immediately! Find out what is happening!” The Truthsayer demanded, his forehead creased.
Just as both sides started to send out scouts, they started to realize that the ground was shaking slightly. Devon frowned, staring down at the grass. He had not known this area to have earthquakes. Yet, the trembling started to grow. The two armies looked around in confusion until suddenly, a swarm of monsters emerged from the nearby treeline. There seemed to be a collective gasp of relief. It was just a herd of monsters in a stampede. These were large trampling creatures that looked a bit like an ox. They were difficult to deal with, but either army could take care of them.
However, the relief lasted only a moment as another group of monsters came out of the forest. Then another. Then another. Every expression went from relief to horror. Some monsters were sorted by type, but others were a mixture of various monsters working together. Their numbers were unknown, but they kept coming, and their direction was abundantly clear. They were aiming right for the two armies.
“What… in… the world!” the Truthsayer’s startled voice summed up everyone’s thoughts.
It was only when a certain human appeared, riding on the back of a giant spider about twice the size of the others that realization struck in.
“Aria…” Devon’s eyes began to widen.
At that moment, there was the sound of tension being cut, and hundreds of things flew from the tree line, slamming into both armies. They were catapults taken from their own stores. She had raided the camps while everyone was out here waiting to fight and then used those very weapons on them. Devon could even see human armor and swords being worn by skeletons and orcs. As to what the catapults launched, it took a moment to realize what they were.
There was explosion after explosion. Geists were a gas-filled creature. Normally, they weren’t very dangerous, but if they received enough damage, they’d explode, covering everything nearby in fire or acid. The formations facing another direction were instantly turned to chaos. At that point, the charging beasts slammed into the front, breaking their line instantly. The other monsters didn’t hesitate to slam right into the weekend spot, crumbling both lines at once.
She had basically treated them like a single army, and then created a giant wedge and slammed it right between them, pealing off their strongest defenses and leaving them vulnerable to more attacks. The monsters had reached Devon, and he leaped aside to keep from being trampled as the Truthsayer screamed and ran back into the crowd for protection behind his soldiers. In the chaos, a soldier had died next to Devon. He instantly created a duplicate who picked up the sword and cut him free.
He went to attack the Truthsayer, but the man had already hidden somewhere safe. However, it wasn’t long before there was nowhere that was safe.
The battle grew in intensity, and eventually, the humans and demons managed to band together to fight. They hadn’t just made a cease-fire. They had become brothers at arms, desperately fighting the monsters as they tore through their ranks.
It should be noted that each army was roughly 10,000 troops, while the total number of monsters only equaled around 1000. In normal circumstances, a thousand monsters were nothing to a troop 20,000 strong. However, the two armies had been fighting separately or even against each other at first. The monsters had attacked by surprise, and in a number never seen or dealt with before.
Normally. A single monster required at least two to three soldiers to fight it safely. Yet, that was a normal monster whose only purpose was to defend itself. These monsters fought with the intention to destroy. Not only were they better armed and moved in rough formations with strategy, but they gave no indication that they cared about their lives. They simply killed and killed until they were dead. Plus, there were so many of them working together next to each other. The gap between them was significantly shortened. It was nothing like a standard labyrinth flood.
The creatures never ran away, and they never stopped coming. They fought on to the bitter end. Yet, only about 5,000 men remained alive, still in a protective circle as they finished off the last few monsters. There were still other monsters around, but they seemed to have broken from their spell and were moving with less organized intent. They still had to be careful, or get lashed out at by a loose monster. They were currently discussing heading to the village to try to find survivors, but most of the troops were still shaken up by this turn of events. Even if the two armies had clashed, the death toll probably wouldn’t have been this high.
One survivor was Devon, who was one of the few not remaining in the defensive formation created by demons and humans. Instead, he was taking out one monster at a time as he desperately looked for a certain person. It was after taking out a spider that had leaped at him that he had finally seen her. Aria was walking across the battlefield, stepping over corpses without care. Her expression was serene, and her body was perfect, as if she was completely untouched by the battle, both physically and mentally.
There was a man on his ass with a shocked expression on his face, but as soon as he saw Aria, he started backing away, kicking the ground as he desperately tried to escape.
“You… please… no… no!” He panicked like a child as she casually approached him.
Devon realized that this man was the Truthsayer. For all of his arrogance, he was actually quite the coward now. He had pissed himself, and his body was covered in bruises, cuts, and mud. He had clearly had a hard time surviving. The fact that he was out here instead of the center of the remaining troops showed how much his leadership capacity had crippled during this battle.
Aria casually reached him and grabbed his neck, picking him up by it. As she did this, he pulled out a knife. Although, instead of trying to stab her, he stabbed his own hand, carving something into it while he chanted.
“Try to call Jenai to protect you?” Aria shook her head while tsking. “You should never try the same trick on me twice.”
His eyes widened, and his hand lost grip of the knife that fell harmlessly to the ground. “Please… please… I’ll… give you anything you want.”
“All I’ve ever wanted was peace. Yet, I’ve learned no man in this world can give it to me. I’ve decided I’m just going to take it myself.” Aria responded darkly.
“Y-you…ah.. ahhh.. ahhhhhhh!” He suddenly started shaking and spasming.
Devon couldn’t see what was happening, but after a moment, it looked like the Truthsayer was aging. His face grew wrinkles, and his hair turned white. Then, his hair fell out, and his skin started to sink in like he was having all the life forced out of him. He finally stopped struggling and screaming, hanging loosely in her grip. Within a minute, he was nothing but a husk in her hands. She casually dropped his desiccated corpse to the ground.
“Finally reached level sixty…” She muttered. “What to choose.”
“Aria…” Devon took three tries to say it.
She spun around dangerously, but when she saw him, she relaxed, but only just slightly. “Devon.”
“Look around…” He said. “You’ve lost. Your army is gone.”
“Have I?” She cocked her head. “Are you going to try to capture me?”
Devon stared at her, not sure how to respond. He had been hoping to see something there. Regret. Anger. Fear. Instead, he saw something far worse. He saw nothing. She had killed over 15,000 people, and she didn’t seem to be bothered a single bit. She did it as easily as wearing a dress.
That made him realize that she had never valued that army in the first place. Those monsters were just a means to an end. She had created it in under a month, and she could do it again if she wanted to. That was the impression Devon got. She really was the Mother of Monsters. That’s what a few of the troops were calling her.
“Did… you plan this?” Devon asked. “Did you want to stop the war by giving both sides a common enemy?”
“The monsters are the enemy of all.” She responded back. “But they aren’t the cause of all of this.”
She didn’t answer his question, but maybe that was of the better. He knew he was just trying to find an excuse. The reality was there was no excuse for what she did. She had caused untold damage, killed thousands, and by all accounts, he should cut her right down that moment!
“I won’t…” He said quietly.
“I won’t bring you in. Just go.”
For a second, there was a flash of emotion in her eyes, and she reached out a hand toward him. “Devon…”
“Just go!” He yelled.
Her hand froze, she slowly nodded, and then she turned to walk away.
“Aria…” He said, causing her to stop for a moment. “Just find somewhere out of the way, and stop this nonsense. If I see you again, I won’t hesitate to kill you.”
Aria chuckled. “If you see me again, you might not be able to…”
She continued to walk away, disappeared in the smoke and corpses of the battlefield. As for Devon, he returned back to the army, who had finally split back up into demons and humans. They were no facing each other awkwardly, but they didn’t have their weapons stolen. Devon’s appearance seemed to bring up their discord.
“Who is in charge?” He asked the demons.
“I-it’d be me, sir. Just a lieutenant, but all my superiors are dead or fled.”
“Be at peace. Go to your tents and recover and save who you can. We’ll take the city. As for the elves… only those that flee to the city can we protect.”
The demon nodded. “My lord… if you were a demon, I could call you friend. I will let the King know what you did today. You saved all of our lives. If you ever need a favor…”
The reason he showed Devon so much respect was that Devon had been the one to form this collaboration. In reality, there were four humans to every remaining demon. The demons had been hit far harder. Whether this was because Aria had been out for the Truthsayers blood or because of his crappy leadership, it was hard to say. Devon and his various clones had saved just about every man here more than once. Both sides were looking at him with respect.
The name cut the man off and caused his face to turn slightly white.
“The Mother of Monsters? What of her?”
“Forget she was here. That’s the request I ask. With that, all debt is paid.”
“Ah…that…” His eyes flashed with a complicated light, but he still nodded. “As my lord says, that Labyrinth overflow was vast and unexpected.”
Devon gave the man one last nod and then began to walk away with his troops. The demons headed in the other direction. Just as they had parted a fair distance, a small contingent of men rode up. A fat man jumped off the horse and began storming toward Devon. He was in an immaculate condition, just like Aria had been. However, where Aria was an abnormality, it was clear that General Maford has stayed out of this battle.
“Look at this mess you made of things!” He snarled.
The men behind Devon looked at Maford angrily. Most of them had figured out by now that Maford was the cause of all of this, and those that didn’t, still respected Devon enough to be angry on his behalf, especially considering he clearly didn’t dirty his hands even a little bit.
“And where were you during the battle?”
Maford’s eyes widened, and then he puffed out his chest, “Why… I was defending the camp!”
“You let them take a few of our catapults…” Devon responded bitterly, gesturing to the broken wooden frames strewn across the battlefield.
“Why… you… none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for you helping that witch! Don’t think that you won’t be held personally accountable!” He screeched.
“I won’t be…” Devon responded tiredly, walking right past General Maford like he wasn’t there.
“Y-you… I will personally see you hanged!”
Devon looked back at the General Maford and snorted. “Not in this life.”
“Y-kkkk!” What he was about to say was cut off along with his head.
Maford’s headless body fell to the ground as the head rolled to the side. Standing behind him was another Devon, holding a sword. The clone gave a nod and then disappeared like smoke.
The men who had followed Maford on horseback started to panic, but they couldn’t even get their horses turned around before arrows started hitting them. The yells only lasted a minute until the last man fell off his horse, looking like a pincushion. Beyond the horses were three other Devons who also nodded and disappeared in a similar manner. Devon’s actions were pure treason. There was no question of that. However, not a single man behind him voiced a word. He gestured, and the men took the corpses and piled them on top of other bodies, making it look like they had fallen in battle.
Then, the group gathered together and started heading to the city to see what remained. From that moment forward, Devon took command of the troops. He had to make a peace treaty with the demon’s work. Aria wasn’t just a threat to humans. She was a threat to everyone. Part of the reason he had let her go wasn’t because of any lingering feelings, but because of fear. He wasn’t convinced if he attacked her, he’d be alive right now. Even surrounded by an army, he wasn’t convinced he was safe.
Devon had lost everything to this woman -his kingdom, his family, his life, his status, his heart, and even his virginity. The only thing he had left was her. He knew she wasn’t an evil woman. He knew that she was pushed to this. However, he also knew what she could do. She was dangerous, and the world had to prepare. If it was the last thing Devon did, he would see her answer for everything she had done.
Time passed on, and the Mother of Monsters became more of a myth than a common household name. It was well known that the peace talks were interrupted by a violent and vicious labyrinth flood. Some people mocked the armies involved for being so weak, but others wondered how such a surge of monsters that was powerful enough to cripple two armies existed. That’s when whispers about some legendary monster that controlled other monsters were spoken about. However, it was spoken with hushed whispers.
The peace talks ended up in a cease-fire that would last for one year. Devon remained in the human realm, and the demons returned to their own realm. It was in a mansion on the outskirts of the capitol where the banging of a door could be heard. A maid hastily went to the door, opening it. Standing there was a woman in a simple dress. She was a simple girl, neither pretty nor ugly. Her face was certainly someone the maid had never seen before. She looked to be fairly pregnant, and it made the maid instantly sympathetic.
“Hello, you are at the residence of Lord Typhon, can I help you?”
The woman smiled. “I hope so. I was sent by Lord Typhon.”
The maid froze for a second and sighed. “I’m sorry, young lady if you haven’t heard. Lord Typhon passed away last spring.”
“I know…” she nodded, holding out a letter. “He told me to hand this to you.”
The maid frowned, taking the note and opening it herself as she read. As she did so, an older woman appeared, peaking over her shoulder.
“Margaret? Who is this woman?”
“Ah… Ma’am… she says she came on Lord Typhon’s request. The letter appears authentic.”
She let out a noise. “Lord Typhon is married?”
The woman looked the younger girl down with pursed lips. “Let me guess… did my husband get your pregnant while away at war?”
“N-no!” She protested. “That’s impossible!
The older woman’s tense expression suddenly turned friendly, and she laughed. “You don’t need to be so worried. I’m not one of those jealous women who get vengeance of every girl their husband fancies. My husband was under a lot of stress, and I was unable to go be with him. Did you comfort him under his sheets?”
The other girl blushed, looking down. “I did…”
“Then… I must thank you for giving him some comfort before he died. If he knew he was able to bring one last child in this world, he’d be ecstatic. Oh, I hope it’s a girl. We’ve had two boys, but no girl. Even if she’s not mine, we can raise her together.”
The older woman was surprisingly forward, even grabbing the other woman’s hands and speaking excitedly.
“I-is that really okay?” the younger one asked.
“It is… Typhon asked me to treat you like family. How could I refuse his last request? Come in… come in. You’re with family now. You’re a very pretty girl, you know.”
The girl laughed. “I’ve been prettier…”
The lady of the household looked down at her bloated stomach and laughed. “Yeah, I remember feeling like a whale too when I was that pregnant. Are you 8, 9 months?”
“I’m not sure, should come any day, though…” The younger one smiled wryly.
“Well, you don’t need to worry. You’ve finally come home.” The older lady grinned.
“I’ll hold you to that.”
“Ah… I haven’t even gotten your name yet?”
“Aria, I’m just a simple woman trying to change the world.”
“Aren’t we all?”
The two broke into laughter, but there was a glint in the younger girl’s eyes that the other woman didn’t notice. She wasn’t joking.