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Dredge

A Dangerous Game [Port Caelum Beaches]

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The Vagrant Queen, flagship of The Forgotten Fleet. It’s massive size and frame appeared on the horizon in the waters outside of Port Caelum, and aboard it was the one and only Dredge. The Nightmare King and Dark Lord of Legion. He who had brought ruin and death to countless lives. But today wasn’t about ruin and destruction, quite the opposite really. Since the battle of Last Chance, Dredge had time to think while sailing the seas. It wasn’t brought on by losing a battle, Dredge had lost battles in the past. His thoughts were that of his people for once, not the selfishness and desire to conquer, not the need to bend the dark races of the world to his service and throw their lives away as if they were nothing. For this first time in forever, he found himself giving a damn about the goblins, trolls, and orcs he took in. He cared for their well-being and today would prove it. Living out at sea was not sustainable for them. They needed land, resources, and the ability to live peacefully. Or at least as relatively peacefully as a nation of monsters and beasts could. 

 

From the beach anyone staring could see the blackened leathery wings of a massive beast open up. Letting loose a deep and sharp ear piercing scream, the monster took flight and made its way to the sands outside the port. Riding atop a truly gargantuan bull wyvern was the dark overlord, he had finally arrived to get the measure of Akako. His emissaries had given their reports of the woman, his walk about her town during the festival gave him some insight on the woman and how she ruled, now it was time to see if all of what he heard lived up to the real deal. Quickly locating where the lone Queen of Port Caelum stood, the Wyvern made haste to approach. 

 

Another ear piercing shriek filled the skies above and descending from the air the wyvern bared its gleaming rows of fangs at the Queen.  Lowering it’s long head and neck, the beast went silent as the loud thump of metal hitting sand sounded off at his side. Standing there in all his unholy glory was Dredge. Blackened war torn armor covered his body from head to toe. At his back was a jagged blade formed of bone from what one could only imagine to be a true horror. With every step the man took power and darkness radiated off of him in spades, a true dark lord to command the forces of evil. But what caused chills to roll down the spines of men were his eyes, two burning red points that shined brightly through a Stygian abyss of blackness that shrouded all other features of his face that the faceplate did not. Those eyes reduced even the bravest of men to nothing. So what would the dark lord do now that he was face to face with the true Queen of Yokai? 

 

Simple. He turned around, looked to his wyvern and spoke. 

 

”Whose a good boy, Jeremy?!Whose a good boy?! You’re a good boy! Yes you are! Yes you are!” lovingly petting the wyvern, the beast returned the favor by nuzzling into his master and extending its slimy disgusting tongue to lick the helmet of his blackened armor. 

 

”You want a treat?! Yeah you do!” letting down one of the large leather sacks attached to the wyvern, Dredge reached in and pulled from it the entire severed leg of a goblin who most likely died in an industrial accident. 

 

Taking the limb and throwing it into the air the wyvern flew up and caught it in its mouth only to devour it whole. From there the Wyvern would fly back to the ship and remain until the meeting was over. Turning to face Akako, Dredge smiled a wicked toothy grin beneath his helmet before his next move. Which was of course this. 

 

”Hey, I’m Dredge. It’s so nice to meet you. My people call me the Nightmare King, Lord of Fire and Ash, Slayer of Men, and Dark Lord of Legion. But you can just call me Dredge. Easier that way.” Dredge said in a very casual and friendly tone. 

 

”So let’s get these negotiations started! Again super nice to meet you.” With the snap of his fingers the man transitioned into full on finger guns before giving a slight bow at the waist and moved to rustle through the leather sack he dropped from the wyvern.

 

@Akako Akari

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Xartia was never an easy man to deal with. He was particularly noisy when it came to matters regarding  Akako, and despite knowing her for several years, it still somehow escaped him that she was wild, untamable, and attempting to control her was futile. While it never came from a bad place, it irked the daiyokai regardless. It was for this reason that she had created a decoy of herself which stood at the docks presently. Meanwhile, the true vixen cloaked her yoki entirely, including her scent making it next to impossible to track her. The beacon of power that Xartia recognized was far enough away to buy her time before he could realize what she'd done. It was thrilling - like sneaking out past curfew. Though, he wasn't the only one she had to fool. It was better that no one knew what she was up to, so Aiyoku, her serpent familiar, was also at the dock waiting for an envoy that would never come. 

At the coast, the Lady of the Void stood in her more natural form. Unlike how adorned her hair had been at the Festival, Akako's long gold, and white tresses cascaded down her back in a curtain of silk that shimmered free of any jingling trinkets. However, she did wear another elegant kimono with layers of crimson beneath white embroidered with gold and black koi fish that trailed down to the sand hiding her dainty bare feet. The silk robes were secured more casually, hanging just off her shoulders, baring her collarbones. Around her waist was a black and gold obi and tucked into the obi dangled the red tassel of her fan. Her hands were tucked into the sleeves of her silk robes as she watched the horizon expectantly.

It was hard to know what to expect. Akako had read the many reports of his countless number of crimes and most recently the siege on Last Chance. There were many that she knew who fought on the opposing side, individuals that she called allies, but they accepted her despite her many indiscretions. She was by every definition a "bad guy". Could they not accept him like they did her? Akako could empathize to their plight, and that was the reason why she ignored all warnings and did as she pleased. She always did as she wanted. 

Vulpine ears twitched as a cry broke the silence, and the vixen lifted her gaze to the sky. Lips painted red tilted up into a ghost of a smile before she stepped forward, closer to the cracking waves of the ocean. He was coming alone, just as they had agreed to and that pleased her immensely. If nothing else, this Lord of Darkness was true to his word. 

They landed, and Akako remained silent, watching, observing him and his mannerisms. There was no fear despite how she paled in size in comparison. She was a petite thing, barely over five feet tall and lithe. Even so, she seemed perfectly content, like the cat who ate the canary, or perhaps the fox that ate the hen. Her human residents would likely fear him; however, they feared her when she first showed her true form to them. They would adapt as they always did. Thousands of years taught her that no matter race, change was possible. It was this reason that she was inclined to meet with a fugitive. 

The demoness's brows rose towards her hairline, watching the interaction between master and beast. That wasn't in the report, this personality quirk that she had in no way anticipated. Fascinating. The vixen composed herself and schooled her expression back into a neutral one, undisturbed by the limb tossed like a bone to a dog. As the Wyvern flew off, Akako's gaze remained on him as he turned to face her and offer an introduction. 

"Akako Akari," she replied, her voice modulated and silvery. "This One has many names, more than I care to recite." 

The demoness allowed her lips to curl into a pleasant smile as she returned the greeting. Her nose twitched as she sniffed the air, taking in his scent and emotions so that one, she would recognize him even without seeing him; two, to get a read on how he possibly felt. While she sifted through the new sensory information, the daiyokai nodded. "Certainly. This One does abhor wasting time." 
 

@Dredge
 

Edited by Akako Akari
Grammar

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@Akako Akari

Akako was what Dredge had expected at first. A ruler who conducted herself in the appropriate manner that was expected of her. Fine silk clothing that was custom made to fit her slender frame. Measured and polite introductions even to a monster such as himself. An air of authority that followed her every action down to her movement and speech. Overall the woman was a pilar of strength and was quite frankly overqualified to run this little port city. Yet there was more to her than what Dredge could read off the bat. Something in her that was born of darkness and regret, while he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. His perception of darkness and all things hate and pain could feel it. 

 

He didn’t bother to face her when she spoke. Nor did he look at her when he himself spoke. The Dark Lord seemed preoccupied rooting through the large leather bag that was left behind with him. 

 

”Then it seems you have mistaken me already, Akako. Wasting time is an avid pastime of mine.” a soft yet deep chuckle escaped his lips as he continued to root through the bag. 

 

”Yahtzee!” he exclaimed aloud to nobody in particular. 

 

Pulling from the leather sack at the ground, Dredge produced three items. Two fold out metallic and padded beach chairs and a bottle of the finest Elven red wine that Terrenus could produce. Throwing the items to the ground they landed on the sand with a light plop. From there he would set up the chairs side by side, his of course being significantly larger due to his monstrous size and weight. Purely for comfort and not to make some sort of subtle power move. 

 

In truth, Dredge had not only taken this meeting to secure safety and prosperity for his people. But it had been so long since he found himself on a beach that wasn’t a war zone. Just himself and another sharing a moment and letting the sounds of the ocean and wind upon the trees be the primary backdrop noise rather than screams and blades clashing upon one another. So he took great comfort when he sat down in his chair, as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. It felt nice. 

 

”It’s stressful to rule. You’re this thing, this idea, this commanding force that people look to for guidance and order in their short little chaotic lives. You give your orders and if you fail, people die. You succeed, maybe less people die. So you just do your best you know?” Dredge reached for the bottle and with the wave of the hand the cork popped and he took a deep drink. 

 

”Well have a seat.” Dredge motioned to seat a few feet next to him. 

 

Another few moments of silence between them passed as the waves crashed onto the shores. Dredge knew that there was a strong possibility these talks would not go well. So he wanted to savor any moment he could have away from the cramped metal confines of a warship. 

 

”So negotiations. Feel free to have a drink. It’s very good shit.” he said while placing the bottle of wine down between the two of them. 

 

”Legion is prepared to fight your battles, sacrifice our men, build your new nation, and obey your laws as equals within your country. I will retain the right to rule and govern my people in accordance with the laws of your land along with other stipulations that will be discussed as talks proceed today. We will act as your banner-men and in exchange your country will provide my people with full citizenship, land in which to farm and build, and access to well paying work either inside or outside Port Caelum and its outlying regions.” Dredge was to the point and concise with what he wanted. 

 

”I am not a greedy man. I only wish to see my people thrive. While we were founded on blood and death. The crimes I committed on my enemy is nothing compared to the death and ruin that has been brought upon my people. Adventurers clubbing baby goblins to death in their cribs, hunting down wyverns for their skin and claws, forcing my people to live in abject poverty and filth. I make no apologies for what I’ve done, but all nations are founded on blood and conquest. That is simply the way the universe works.” Dredge was honest, he didn’t tell a lie and the Yokai would be able to sniff his emotions to tell that he was completely genuine. 

 

Dredge was tired. He was tired of people looking at him and calling him a terrorist when he returned the favor to the white towering cities of man. Yes, he was evil. He was a dark lord, but evil was not simply defined by what the forces of light announced it to be. It wasn’t just abject cruelty and burning things just to burn them. There was a purpose and Dredge intended to focus that and lead his people into the future outside of living in caves and getting rained on in the woods.

Edited by Dredge

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A curious individual Dredge was, arriving in a full set of armor, not even bothering to remove his helm, with the intent to casually relax on the beach while negotiating terms of this relationship between her people and his. It made her wonder why he hadn't come more comfortably. Did he expect her to appear ready to fight him? Was he prepared for an attack? Perhaps it was foolish for Akako to have arrived without that intention, but she was confident that he wasn't here to start a war. They were not so different, after all. Surely he knew this, could deduce that she and hers were also creatures that weren't well loved by the nations scattered across Valucre, that they too were prosecuted out of ignorance of what was different. There were, of course, radicals among yokai, those that believed they were the superior race and in turn made those of similar ilk appear to be the same. Dangerous and loathsome creatures that could not be trusted. Fear bred hatred, and it was something that Akako wanted to correct.  Perhaps Dredge was of the same mindset. 

When he produced folding chairs and a bottle of wine and no glasses, Akako nearly scoffed in amazement, though while her mind reacted, she did not. The vixen remained with a glimmer of amusement in her eyes and that fox-like smile that barely titled her pretty red lips. She followed him silently, standing just out of reach and waiting as he set up. Even if Xartia were to be on his way now, the scene of the pair of rulers idly sitting would surely calm his frayed nerves. For this reason, the demoness decided to play along and move at his pace. 

While Dredge dropped into his chair and expressed his opinion of taking a position of leadership, one of Akako's nine tails lifted and wrapped around her waist, her hands unfolded from beneath the sleeves of her kimono, and she slid her slender digits over the soft fur before plucking a gold strand. Her tail returned to its place behind her, swaying lazily while Akako's gold eyes lowered to the golden strand in the palm of her hand.  Her yoki unfurled, and she lowered her lips to the unassuming strand of gold before pursing her lips and blowing gently on it. The air warmed as her magic went to work, transforming the single strand of hair in her palm into a small white and gold saucer that appeared made of porcelain. 

"There is no such thing as perfection, certainly not leading people that may or may not be predictable. One thing is sure, the only consistency among all creatures is inconsistency."

Moving to the seat at his side, the Yokai Queen lowered herself, sitting partially on her hips so she may face Dredge. Her kimono parted at her upper thighs allowing the sun to warm her milky skin. Her tails draped over the opposing armrest and her gaze averted to gaze at the ocean a moment, her eyes locating the dot on the horizon that was the ship that led the Forgotten Fleet. The silence between them was a comfortable one as they both likely considered the possible outcomes of this meeting. It could either be a catalyst for terrible hardship for her people and his, or perhaps the opposite. 

His voice broke her from her reverie, and her golden eyes turned to peer at him before lowering to the bottle of wine placed in the sand between them. Akako smiled before leaning down and plucking it from the sand to fill her little glass, watching as the deep burgundy liquid swirled before returning the bottle to its place. Bringing the saucer to her lips, Akako listened as Dredge spoke, her eyes returning to the horizon and watching as the sun continued to ascend into the sky lighting up her little corner of Genesaris. Dredge didn't phrase anything as a question or request. Like her, he assumed authority on the matter, and that amused her. Bringing the saucer back down to a neutral position, the woman at his side wet her lips as she allowed the wine's flavor to settle fully on her tongue. 

Akako looked back to the monster at her side, the murderer, the terrorist, and she considered him for a moment. Considered his plight for his people and the demands he placed before her. As silly as he had been a moment before, he certainly knew when to reign it in and be sober. He didn't appear to be a monster at that moment. Whatever his transgressions were in the past, they weren't mindless actions, not of a sociopath at least. There was motivation behind the things he did. He was waging war much as she would. Her gaze narrowed on him, inspecting him, and his worn armor that was in desperate need of repair. He also could do with a proper shower she realized, and Akako let out a soft puff of air. 

"Citizenship is something earned, not something This One can offer with my word alone. This One can provide land and work; however, all you are offering me is your word. This One will need more than that to reassure my people that you and your men will not lay waste to my city." 

Her lips turned down as she continued, her full attention on him. "This One is not blind to the horrors that have been committed by adventurers. Your war is one that is personal for me and mine. I do not condone needless bloodshed as it is a waste of valuable resources, but I do know the necessity of it."

"Will yours respect orders This One provides? Will they follow me into battle even if you are not at the lead? How can I trust that you will be true to me and my cause?" 

Many were concerned about this. Xartia didn't trust that Dredge wasn't merely after the port and this was all a ruse. Akako could see the point, and it was the very reason she needed something to tell any that doubted the legitimacy of the alliance between Legion and Port Caelum. 

@Dredge

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@Akako Akari

Dredge was happy to hear that Queen Akako understood his methods as bloody and destructive as they were. When he first arrived on this strange world after being thrown into an inter-dimensional portal and being ripped from his galactic nation. The plan was simply to return home, get some revenge, glass a few planets, and genocide a few species. But he didn’t feel that way anymore, being here on this planet caused a deep and fundamental change to the very core of his being. For him evil used to just be burning, killing, and unbridled destruction for the fun of it. Spending time with the downtrodden and monsters of this world and helping them to organize and rise to power to take revenge. It made him not want to go home, that maybe perhaps this world could be such a place. But he was getting ahead of himself. There was still much work to do, and starting with that were these negotiations. 

 

With a wave of his hand and another deep and soft chuckle, more wine from the bottle cantrip’d up and into the dark abyss of his helmet where he presumably drank it. After an audible gulp of wine, Dredge crossed one leg over the other and put his hands behind his head in a relaxed position. 

 

”If I wanted to burn your town to the ground. One. We wouldn’t be having this conversation. And two, if I truly wanted to lay waste to this place the best option would of been to attack during the night of the festival. Sure there would be increased security, but with the amount of people packing the streets, guards who are probably drunk as well. All I would of needed to do was firebomb the place from the sea with my fleet, send in the wyverns and raiders to pillage and kill. The amount of chaos and panic would of made mounting any kind of meaningful defense impossible.” It was true, if Dredge truly wanted to destroy everything this woman had worked for. It wouldn’t of been difficult at all. 

 

”But I understand your apprehension and skepticism to not trust us. Hell, I wouldn’t trust me either in your position. So here’s what I’m going to do. I will give to you a colony’s worth of three thousand civilians with zero military men for you to establish within any part of your growing nation. I will of course leave a capable lieutenant of mine there to lead them as they will most likely not follow anyone you appoint to do so. Your people can guard them and provide security, and should I betray you or fail you. You have what I care for most, my people.” Dredge was essentially giving Akako hostages. The man was serious about this deal and he was willing to pay it forward in order to make the woman comfortable with it. 

 

”I am also willing to donate half of my treasury to your nation. In return since citizenship shall not be granted immediately,  my people will be given the status of lawful residency and will be shown the same amount of respect when it comes to their need and potential welfare. They will never again be treated like second class citizens or sport for governments and adventurers to hunt and kill. Furthermore not only will we be allowed to build our own settlement, any wild monstrous people found in the wilds of your new nation are not to be killed without absolute necessity and authorization of lethal force. Legion will send it’s diplomats to bring them into the fold of your nation. So to answer your question.” Dredge paused and turned his head to Akako. His arms came back down to his side and one glowing red eye shined at the woman from beneath the helmet. 

 

”Yes. I will respect your orders and come to your aid so long as it does not cause me to choose between you and my people. Because it’s them every time. When it comes to battle though, I will exclusively lead my forces. They would never listen to anyone whose not me or someone I’ve deputized. I’ll stick to whatever it is your battle plan might be, but you know how battles go and the chaos within.” Dredge made sure that he kept his bases covered. The dark lord much rather preferred if this worked out for the best. His demands were reasonable and what he was willing to sacrifice was more than fair.

Edited by Dredge

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Akako wasn't thrilled that he thought so little of her and her ability to protect her city. Either he was so confident in his strength, or his arrogance dictated how he viewed anyone that wasn't him. While her forces weren't as large as his, the night of the festival, her military wasn't the only present. Rafael, Raveena, even the Order had attended, and with them, they brought their men. However, his point was right. Dredge could have attacked already, unleashed his horde upon her small corner of Genesaris, but he didn't, and she could imagine why. It was in his best interest to get close to her. Only time would tell if his intentions would benefit her as well or if he would eventually turn on her. 

Even so, he offered to give her leverage over him. The vixen appreciated it, the offer alone quieted some of her irritation, but the demoness wasn't keen on keeping captives. It would undoubtedly make it even more difficult for his people to trust her, which was something that she wanted.  For the rising Empire to be truly successful, they needed solidarity.  The people that supported the leaders needed to rise like a tidal wave to push her to victory. No kingdom was built off the back of a Queen or King, but the people that supported them. For this relationship to work, Akako needed not only Dredge to want her success, but his and her people would need to want it too. 

It was easy to see that he'd put plenty of thought into what he would be willing to give and what he wanted in return. His requests were not unreasonable ones at the very least. Part of her assumed that he would have high demands that would be difficult to fulfill, but it seemed that they were mostly on the same page already minus a few minor details. 

"It is disappointing that you have so little faith in my ability to defend what is mine," she commented first her gaze on him, frigid and absent of amusement or warmth. Her hand lifted as if to wave away the thought and to signal him to not bother retorting because there would be little point in arguing over something that hardly mattered in that moment.

Then with a soft sigh, she softened and looked back to the ocean as she considered how to approach the next item on the list of things he brought up. Looking back to him again, she continued. 

"While I appreciate the sentiment of hostages, I must politely decline. My ultimate goal is for your people to integrate fully with mine. Ideally, the trust will be built over time, but I want our people together, living amongst each other. Having separate camps breeds segregation, and that is not something I particularly care for. I will gladly hire anyone you suggest to guard my estate, and they can work alongside some of my most trusted. As a sign of good faith. Your people will never trust me if they cannot know me. Let me know them... Perhaps you can take me back to your ships today for me to walk amongst them? Allow them to see that while I do not look like you, I am not a threat. I will love them and protect them just as much as I love and protect everyone else that chooses to live here." 

"As for your treasury, we can discuss the costs of expansion and put our coin together. As it stands, my Port does not have enough room for everyone. We will need to expand. Permanent Residency will not be an issue. After a time, they can apply for full citizenship. In the meantime, they will be afforded healthcare, access to education, work, and anything else that is necessary. Besides, I feel the same as you do regarding hunting "monsters" for sport. Yokai have also suffered at the hand of Adventurers, and for that reason, there is no hunting permitted on any lands I rule over. It is a severe offense and punishable by death, depending on the circumstances. Lethal force is rarely necessary; however, if there is an issue that needs to be resolved, I will trust you and your people to bring them into our fold." 

Akako was careful in her wording. It was no longer her Port, but theirs. What was hers would be his. Her formal speech had also loosened into something more casual, matching his. 

The kitsune smiled that beguiling fox-smile before speaking again. "I hope that eventually, your forces will be ours... certainly not at first, but maybe after a time. I imagine that they will need to see that I am capable in battle."

Bringing the saucer to her lips again she took a slow sip and looked back out towards the sea. The vixen wondered if he would be inclined to bring her to them and if it was a terrible idea. Anything could go wrong, but sometimes it was better to take a chance. It was a game of chances and either she could win or lose. In any case, she was willing to take her chances. She knew Dredge's reputation, but it seemed like he didn't know hers. Perhaps he was underestimating her and that could potentially be an advantage. 

@Dredge

Edited by Akako Akari
Grammar

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@Akako Akari

Dredge listened to the words of the Yokai Queen. Some of them he greatly enjoyed, and others not so much. He was disappointed in her cleverness and guile to an extent. A ruler often had to veil things in vague terms in order to have space to finesse certain truths when dialogue is exchanged. For a demon as pretty as she was, she didn’t have a firm grasp of what Dredge truly had to offer in the sense of some of his proposals. Though he couldn’t entirely blame her. The woman had been leading a rather casually accepted nation of people. Port Caelum wasn’t the White Cities of men, elves, and dwarves, but the woman had been spending too much time with their ilk. The privileged, the beautiful, and the self righteous. It seemed that she had forgotten her roots of infinite darkness and demonic power, and while Dredge would not lead her back to that source. He knew that she was everything he could not be. She was grace, beauty, and someone of every race could rally behind. So rather than telling her these feelings, he opted to try and educate her in a different matter. 

 

”Woah woah woah. Whose saying anything about hostages? Certainly not me. All I said was that I’d gift you three thousand civilians to build a settlement in your outlaying regions. People who are more agreeable in nature to more civilized life. Tengu, hobgoblins, Yuan-Ti, Half-Orcs. Who you add to that colonization force is completely up to you. You could add as many other people as you want and create a town where both monsters and humans alike live and prosper. That’s not for me to decide.” While it was a rose by any other name. Dredge had hoped that when the woman saw his offer, she would see it as an opportunity as he had. A chance for the civilized and wild to come together and build something else. Yes on the surface it would appeared that Dredge was mindlessly tossing hostages at the woman, but it was a test she had both passed and failed. 

 

She wanted unity, she wanted solidarity, and Dredge wanted the same. He wanted a place for his people to become one and be normalized in the face of society and the populace as a whole. Not just as monsters to slay, but as real people for the world to accept and see as more. 

 

”I will of course be taking the more.... disgruntled races with me to build a settlement. Orcs, goblins, wargs, etcetera etcetera. And over time I will slowly integrate the more chaotic people into this system of government.” Dredge then sat up somewhat and looked over to Akako. The points in his eyes weren’t focused, they were more rounded and sympathetic in nature. 

 

”We are not enemies. I am simply the worst version of you, and you are the best version of me.” Dredge said with all honesty and sincerity. 

 

”Our people will become one, and I will pledge my sword to you until the end. If it comes to war, we will fight. If it comes to peace, we will build. I’m here because you are their best option. I could sail the world and not find someone better.” Dredge then scoot himself over so that his feet hit the sand and he sat upright to face her. 

 

”So tell me true. Are we doing this or not? I’ll take you aboard the Forgotten Fleet. I’ll show you my people who are living in filth and cramped metal containers, then you can tell me if they deserve a better life or not. Because I clearly have not been able to provide them that. Maybe you can though.” Dredge if anything knew how to cut to the heart of things. As silly and as fun as he was at times. He wanted to make this happen. All of them were counting on him.

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Dredge's vehement response brought her attention to him again, her head turning to face him. The vixen's brow rose as he denied that his people would be used as leverage against him. Her right shoulder lifted in a dismissive shrug and her smile refreshed. Despite his argument, Akako wanted to be sure things were fair lest he think that she was taking advantage. "Then I must suggest you take some of mine in return, to inhabit the settlement you intend to create for the more disgruntled as you call them. I can send the jorōgumo, hitotsume-kozō, aonyōbō, noppera-bō, kappa, oni, and others that can easily blend." His trust came first, so she was willing to make concessions to prove herself. However, she had not forgotten the threat that was given to her by the wraith. The kitsune preferred to believe that the wraith had said that of his own volition rather than Dredge trying to lord power over her.

They were not enemies; however, trust would need to be established for them to become friends and true allies. "Until you and I, and more importantly our people, are more comfortable with each other and trust one another, I strongly advise against separated settlements. Once you trust me and I, you, and you've gained citizenship, then, we can discuss a subject territory to your name that would fall under my flag. I think that this is fair. I did not acquire the power I have now without taking the time to build trust in those that would grant me my own power." 

"Much like you will pledge your sword to me and my people, I will offer the same. I will fight alongside you. As it stands, I do have enemies, one in particular that we will need to discuss, but first, we must build and shape our infrastructure." Akako remained leaning towards the leader of Legion, her legs crossed, glass in her hand as she continued. 

Her golden eyes glinted with wicked anticipation before she spoke again, "We are doing this so long as you are satisfied with me and my suggestions." The saucer was brought to her lips once more and she finished the glass before the yoki that had transformed it released the spell and it was turned back into a single hair that floated harmlessly to the sand. 

The vixen then stood and smoothed the silk of her kimono down her thighs before turning to peer at him over her bared shoulder. "Now, how do you suggest we travel to your ships. I can make my own way unless you prefer we go together." 
 

Edited by Akako Akari

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@Akako Akari

Dredge laughed. He couldn’t help it. He laughed at Akako and her naïveté. The idea that she was going to integrate her people with his more chaotic subjects was something to laugh at. His free hand reached up and the iron covered gauntlet covered his face as he did so. His fears and were confirmed that Akako was out of touch and didn’t understand how his people’s violent culture worked. He wasn’t trying to belittle her in any way but it was more than clear that the woman had spent too much time dealing with the privileged races. She was what, thousands or nigh millennia years old? Yet she could not grasp that the ideology of people that lived across the sea and on a far away continent. 

 

”It’s not you! It’s me! Dredge said as he laughed again in her face. 

 

”No, just no my sweet summer child.” Dredge began to contain his laugher as he spoke. 

 

With one last stifle of laughter, took the bottle by hand and drank a good glug of it beneath his darkened faceplate. It was clear that she had focused on Yokai and the citizens she governed, people who were at least somewhat educated, and have had her leadership to guide them into civility and normality in her holdings. 

 

”I know you aren’t stupid, I’ve seen that. However you are far out of touch of these people. Which is why if you need us, you’ll need to understand us.” Dredge then cocked his head and while he was sincere to the woman in what he had said earlier, she simply didn’t understand how the monstrous races of Terrenus operated. 

 

”The first army I acquired was that of Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears that lived in an actual cave outside of every idea of government. Only the strong survived, and murder was an every day part of life. This goes for orc and Kobold army I acquired.” Dredge chuckled once again and let in a deep breath of air once again to calm himself. 

 

”When I say I’ll build my own settlement of my disgruntled people. It’s not for you and yours, it’s for them. It’s to introduce them to the ideas of taxes, government legislative bodies, courts and trials. So your people would be walking into a nightmare scenario where murder, death, and survival of the fittest is an everyday reality. So no, I respectfully decline.” Dredge looked to Akako and she would know that this wasn’t a power move, this wasn’t him trying to gain power. It was simply protecting her people from returning to a more savage nature where their worst impulses to kill, maim, and destroy weren’t fed into by the more evil and horrid races that were brought up in a survival situation where the strong ate the weak. 

 

”So here’s my terms on that matter. We will have our settlement where I will rule and slowly introduce these people to your laws and government over the course of let’s just say two years. This will be an exclusive settlement for monsters that will be of course open to trade and visitations by your people as well as taxation that I will personally generate for you to meet your quotas.” Dredge would then roll his iron covered fingers against his grieves to think. 

 

”As much as I like you and your ideals. You will agree to these terms. This is non negotiable for the safety of your people, not mine. If you deny this then I will take these people and leave. While you are my best choice of a ruler to help lead them, I can’t put these people into a situation that they can’t understand. So time is needed.” Dredge then chuckled and was quite clear. 

 

He’d agree to all of Akako’s terms but this. The monstrous wild races needed time to adjust and time to be themselves before adjusting into more civilized life. The Queen wanted unity and for them to wave the flag of peace and harmony, but that wasn’t what Dredge and legion were. He gave her the more civilized people in his nation and she’d need to agree to that. 

 

”If you want to see our people, what they truly are so you can get an better understanding. I’ll summon you a wyvern to ride and see. But if you insist that this settlement I intend to set up for my chaotic people, you’re only hurting yourself. I will fight for you, and I’ll come to your aid. It’s just these people need time to adjust.” While Dredge had laughed at the woman, hopefully she’d see he was right. 

 

What she proposed was not feasible and she’d be subjecting her people to an environment that would radicalize them back to their demonic roots that tended to feed into their worst desires. They would no longer be hers, they’d follow a literal dark lord who pulsed evil energy into their very veins. Dredge prayed the woman was smarter than that.

Edited by Dredge

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His laughter was an insult, and Akako did well to keep herself perfectly poised as she watched him reel with the supposed hilarity of something she found no humor in. There was a moment that she wondered if he was daft and she amended the thought and decided that it was perhaps another issue. 

"Out of touch?" The vixen repeated, her tone was somewhat incredulous. At that point, Akako turned, so she was facing him again, any sympathy and kindness that was once present on her features vanished into an impassive mask. 

As he continued, she controlled her tongue and waited for him to be done. A few things were made clear to her at that moment; he had no intention of bending the knee.  She considered a more violent means to gain his cooperation; then she wondered if he would be at all interested to see her true nature. Akako quelled the thoughts and mentally reminded herself that she was above such methods. If he wanted a demonstration, then he would have to ask nicely. 

The daiyokai's lips curled into another smile, void of affection as she studied him for a moment. Arrogant, blissfully unaware. It was cute. 

"Dredge, your ignorance is almost charming.  What you are proposing, I have already accomplished. The monsters, beasts... creatures that go bump in the night, the ones that already integrated into my society, are the very same that lived without rules, without order, without hierarchy. They are the same that preyed on humans and each other. What you assume to be naivety, is nothing more than your inability to recognize experience. What I propose to include in your settlement are not the soft kind of creatures and weak humans you are accustomed to. But instead, the very embodiment of chaos which I have personally tamed. " 

Akako tapped her lips as if to consider something, her gaze peering off as she lapsed into thought then she clicked her tongue and shook her head in a disapproving manner. "Furthermore... I have concerns about your presence. Your nature... are you sure you will be capable of domesticating chaotic peoples as I have?" 

She wanted to comment on his insolent behavior and tone of speech. Dredge not only insulted her by laughing at her, but he had the gall to demand anything of her. Akako wondered if he realized that she was not only his best bet but his only one. He thought her weak, but that wasn't the case. The vixen had friends in very high places. If he made a move to side with her enemies, everything he wanted would be dust. Perhaps he didn't know the state of politics in Genesaris and was ill-informed. 

@Dredge

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Dredge was not phased by the woman’s shift in demeanor. This was far from his first rodeo as well, and back in his home dimension he commanded armies and controlled entire galactic nations. What Akako held was less than nothing to what he once had, and he had faced off against far scarier people than her. However reminiscing the past wouldn’t get anyone anywhere right now. He had hungry mouths to feed and Akako was willing to help in that endeavor. However Dredge was not wrong when he said that these people needed time to adjust to the new world they were entering. Something he would kindly explain to her on why she had to allow this settlement to exist exclusively to his people in terms of civilian populace. 

 

”A little over a year ago. These people were living in caves, holes in the ground, and in the forests and mountains completely exposed to the elements. They were hunted and killed and their way of life was built on strength and arcane prowess. Most of them don’t even know how to read. So what you are essentially saying is you want to put your people into what’s basically a powder keg of different violent people that fight and kill over trivial matters such as someone stealing a loaf of bread. Having your people there would cause what control and fealty they have to a symbol such as a Dark Lord to potentially crumble into anarchy and chaos at the sight of outsiders with a completely different mindset than that of their own.“ Dredge didn’t care if Akako thought she knew best due to her accomplishments. This came down to simply trust. It wasn’t all about her people coming in to integrate and become one. It was about leaving him to his own devices in her land. Something which was wise to veil under the guise of something more uplifting in nature. 

 

However they would need to compromise on this issue. Dredge sincerely was not trying to make this about him and being able to be left alone. This issue truly was about how his people needed time to adjust and come to grips with how her empire functioned. Taxes, courts, legislative bodies, civic responsibilities. All those things might of been on the moon for these monsters to try and grasp at it right now. So Dredge would once again be the one willing to make compromises. He could be less of a dick about it earlier, but that just wasn’t Dredge. So the man simply took in a breath of air and tried to continue to rationally explain this to her. 

 

”Our people are very similar in many ways, however they are also very different. You have succeeded in integrating your people into every day society. I won’t deny you your accomplishments, but I imagine that took time, and many of my people aren’t as intelligent as yours. Like I said, it’s just been a little over a year since the were basically living like wild animals. So while I do not agree with your civilians coming to this main settlement, I will agree to any intelligence service agents, merchants, traders, and public lecturers to help them understand this system of economics and government as we move forward. I will also agree to let you station any diplomats and military forces in or around the settlement. We will also use the colonization force I’ve gifted to help serve as a shining example that your people can integrate in time once they understand more.” Dredge would then do his best to reassure Akako of his abilities to lead. What he said was true about his people and how they needed an adjustment period for more complicated and nuanced topics, their ability to rally and follow a Dark Lord was unmatched. 

 

”As for my ability to lead. I plucked these people from a life of misery and squalor. I gave them care and attention to their suffrage under the cruel boot of man. They chose to rally behind me so that we could burn the white cities of man and take revenge upon their oppressors. Then we organized into a kingdom of monsters with a professionally trained and uniformed army. We took that army and sacked Last Chance and stole the Forgotten Fleet so we could leave Terrenus and the oppression Men, elves, and dwarves pushed upon them. So over the course of that year, we have an army, we have a fleet, and we have a people now looking for a home where they can be treated as equals. That will take some time to do, I only speak what is true. I have agreed to all your terms and given you a very sizable offer. I ask that you yield on this provision as I know my people better than you do. Whether we walk away or stay and fight for you is up to you.” Akako was a reasonable woman hopefully. Dredge wanted this deal to work out but if the woman couldn’t continue to extend even the slightest bit of trust like she had shown this day in meeting him, then their relationship couldn’t continue to exist. All Dredge wanted was prosperity for his people. So the ball was in her court.

@Akako Akari

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The air between them was tense as they stared each other down. It was a palatable thing and had anyone been there to witness their conversation; they would have been uncomfortable more than likely. After he explained the situation, again, Akako regarded him coolly. Her impassive eyes were pools of chilled gold as she allowed silence to settle between them. Her lips parted just a hair, and her tongue slid over her top row of teeth, glancing over the sharp points of her canines, a motion Dredge would undoubtedly notice. Meanwhile, her tails twitched much like a cat would if annoyed. 

"Fine." Her voice was curt when she responded, far removed from the caramel smooth lilt from before. 

"We will build on the other side of the cold mountains. There is more greenery on the other side - forests, and caves - which I am sure your people would appreciate." 

"I will station a few hundred of my men in your city, and my familiar will also reside within your settlement once we have finished building." 

"Before this meeting, we have already made moves to start expanding, and there I have requested a road be tunneled through the cold mountains to connect to the other side. It will provide useful for trade, and it will also allow us to meet more efficiently. Is this agreeable?" 

The vixen was in a foul mood now and doubted a trip to the Forgotten Fleet at this very moment was a good idea. Internally she decided that she would post-pone for a day. Return to her estate and continue issuing directives to fuel the goal at hand. There was a lot Dredge didn't know. They hadn't yet discussed her ambitions or goals for her small corner of Genesaris, but it was grand. Akako had long stayed in the shadows of others even though she was a force of nature. Many in her recent history led to this point; a Baron from her time in the City of Doors, the Scarlet Queen that could only see a Devil, the Cambion that continued to chase after a fantasy, the Gold Lich King that once collared her like a pet, and so many more. She could imagine each reaction when she obtained her purpose. Her lips tilted up at the thought. 

@Dredge

 

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@Akako Akari

”Deal.” Dredge said in a low burning tone of a dark lord. 

 

The gleaming white fangs beneath the Stygian abyss of darkness within his helmet curled into a smile that while was not sinister in nature, was somewhat foreboding to behold. A Cheshire grin that at times signaled danger to those in front of it. Though Dredge was quick to take the palm of his gauntlet covered hand and smack himself across the face with it. 

 

”Sorry about that! Force of habit. You spend a few thousand years murdering and glassing entire planets and you pick up some nasty habits. Anyways yes, we have a deal and I immensely look forward to working with you to help accomplish this grand vision of yours.” Dredge then stood up from his seat and looked down at the more than unhappy Akako. 

 

Which for Dredge it was a vast improvement on how most of his meetings ended. Most of the time the diplomats sent to him would either be injured or dead by the end of the meeting, or he’d be terribly injured, or both. Regardless someone was getting stabbed by the end of most of his meetings. So this was a real step in the right direction. Sure he had upset the Yokai, and had made sure she didn’t get everything she wanted out of the deal. But it was a small concession to be made. It wasn’t as if he planned on betraying her, he wanted everything she did and as long as his people were safe and prospering he was happy to hand the reigns over to her if she proved herself capable. 

 

Maybe he could live a life without having to rule and without war. He had never considered it, but for the briefest of moments the dark overlord considered what life would be like I’m retirement. Something that never once was an option in his previous life. With that brief moment of vulnerability shrugged off of his body language, the man read the room and spoke to the queen. 

 

”We’ll give you a tour of the fleet tomorrow. We will sail to the beaches east of Port Caelum and drop anchor a few kilometers from land. On your formal invitation only will we make landfall. You have my word.” Dredge then gave a short yet respectable bow to the woman. 

 

”Your Grace. Keep the bottle. It’s very good.” he said as he recovered from his bow. 

 

From there the blackened wings of the wyvern once again expanded from the deck of the Vagrant Queen and began to fly its way over to them. Now would be the last few moments to get in any advice, threats, or words of encouragement. Dredge had no threats to give or much else to say, he’d just sort of awkwardly wait and tap his foot in the sand while humming a foreign tune to himself.

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As soon as he spoke the single syllable word that announced they were finally in agreement, Akako refocused on him in time to see a malevolent sort of grin twist onto what she could see of his face from behind his helm. A brow rose as if to ask what he found so amusing, but he was quick to speak again, as she noticed he so often did. 

"Hn." 

It was a non-committal sound that acknowledged his explanation, but her mind was already off elsewhere as she looked back to the ocean. The white caps of the waves seemed fascinating, never quite the same as they rose and fell. Out there, in the distance, was his fleet. Her instincts urged her to sniff out the newcomers, but she knew that from here and with the salt in the air, she would never be able to scent any of them. 

The Dark Lord's voice came again, and Akako glanced over at him from the corner of her eye. The vixen hummed before glancing back towards the ocean, completely missing his bow. Instead, her eyes focused on the dark wings of the wyvern expand before beating at the sky to lift away from the vessel. A comfortable silence fell between them as she watched the creature fly towards them. 

There was a sigh on her lips, and the demoness turned her back to the wyvern and made her way inland. She paused and looked back over her shoulder to Dredge. "Are there any provisions that we can prepare for tomorrow?" 

@Dredge

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@Akako Akari

”Meat.” Dredge said with his back to Akako. 

 

A loud piercing shriek filled the sky once again, and descending down from massive black wings that kicked up the sand and sprayed ocean mist was the one and only Jeremy. With its talon tipped claws in the water, It lowered its head and was lovingly stroked across the sleek black scales of its head. With the snap of his finger the chairs laying on the beach lifted up into the air and neatly folded in on themselves only to next be laid inside the brown leather bag. Hovering over to him, Dredge strapped the leather bag onto Jeremy’s side before once again speaking. 

 

”Raw, rotten, preserved, or fresh livestock. My people are weak and hungry, and the first order of business is a meal. We will be self-sufficient from that point on in terms of food production.” Dredge would then saddle up and mount onto Jeremy’s back. 

 

”Oh and just so we’re crystal clear about this engagement.” Dredge’s pointed red eyes stared directly at the Yokai Queen with a burning intensity. 

 

”We will be loyal to you, and we’ll fight for you. But if you ever betray us, treat my people as lesser beings, or so much as even try to sell them out to the governments of Terrenus.” And the next few words Dredge spoke were of great importance. 

 

”I don’t know if I can kill you or not, but I will damn sure try.” The points of intensity faded and Dredge’s eyes returned to normal. 

 

”Anyways have a great day! with all due cheer, happiness, and good will. The wyvern screeched and took flight towards the the Forgotten Fleet to hopefully spend its last night aboard the cramped confines of a ship.

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