The last of the screaming and battle cries had stopped long ago. The whimpering and sobbing that followed the siege of the keep as the wounded and dying littered the halls had just now ceased. The duke’s manor was now little more than a grand crypt filled with the sound of wind whistling thought broken walls and flames crackling as they feasted on splintered pieces of wood. Above the familiar sounds that came in the wake of a slaughter there were the echoes of hooves clicking on cobblestone.
The chimera that towered over the maimed bodies of the duke’s guards and servants parted as their overlord entered the keep’s grand hall. Each of the warped animals knelt as the beast with the bright green scales and course smokey grey fur strode up to where the duke had met his end. Koin looked down on the blood soaked corpse of the duke and duchess with its malevolent onyx eyes and snorted from its snout.
“I would have respected this one’s bravado had it not been so mixed with stupidity,” scoffed the great goat-beast. Koin let it’s claws traced up the sides of it’s horns and test their points with a small press down on the tips. The creature looked about the duke’s hall and scanned for anything of worth. Koin’s snout found it’s way into a deep frown as it rapidly became evident that there was little of value present in this place. “Come!” shouted the elder chimera back towards the hall’s entryway.
A dirt covered man clad in even filthier rags hobbled through the shattered frame where the hall’s double doors had once hung. While the man was mired in grime, a vast collection of scars and cuts upon his flesh far exceeded in quantity the muck that drenched him. The most impressive scar was the likeness of a horned goat sliced into his forehead. Despite the impediment to his mobility offered by the marred nubs where his big toes had been, he managed to move well for a cripple. Upon reaching Koin, the man knelt down and put his right hand and the stump where his left hand had been upon the red stained floor in deference.
After a few breaths reveling in dominance, Koin broke the silence. “Enough groveling Marx, get up,” ordered the imposing horned chimera with a wave of a claw. “What offerings are there in this place?” it asked after Marx had returned to his feet.
“Master, we have uncovered a vault where the duke’s riches were kept. The offerings are many, so I am told,” Marx said while he kept his eyes fearfully averted from Koin’s wrathful gaze.
“Take me there now,” Koin said impatiently. “Have some of my humans come and strip the dead. Keep and collect anything of worth and burn the rest,” it continued with a disgusted glance back to the body of the duke lying on the cobblestone.
“At once, my master,” Marx replied with a sense of eagerness dripping in his words. He took the lead and led the hulking chimera from the ruined hall.
The chimera and it’s human minion lumbered down the keep’s corridors and hallway, avoiding piles of rubble and mounds of dead bodies. The scent of burning wood and cloth was fading and the smell of rot and gore was beginning to take precedence. This place was fast becoming a cesspool.
“There are times when I find some glimmer of merit in your kind,” Koin mused as it stepped over the remains of a young man in a page’s tunic. The youth had been torn in half at the waist.
“Thank you, master. I am unworthy of your praise but I accept it graciously,” Marx responded with well-conditioned speed.
Koin let its claws rake the stones of the wall. A shrill squeal pieced the stillness of the bloody aftermath as the chimera carved deep tracks into the limestone. “Your loyalty is one such instance, of course but the thing that catches my interest as of now is the arrogance of this place,” Koin said as it stopped briefly and gestured to the entirety of the keep around it.
Marx stopped and regarded Koin with a quizzical look. His face belied a lack of comprehension as well as the terror to voice his lack of understanding. The scarred man made the critical mistake of letting his eyes meet Koin’s stare. His prey like brown eyes filled with dread as the two jet black orbs in Koin’s skull penetrated him like a Rayward charger’s lance.
The powerful chimera offered the man a cruel twist of it’s maw that landed someplace between a smile and a sneer. “Of course, I can not expect you to understand my meaning. I shall explain,” Koin said haughtily. It loomed over Marx and took evident delight in invoking unchained dread in the branded man. “The walled cities of your kind are formidable. Naturally they will fall but for now the walls are enough to keep the like of me and my cousins occupied elsewhere. But something like this…” Koin said as it ran its claws down the limestone walls. “A human bastion outside of the walled cites. A man so brazen as to think that he and his could defend a domain out here. The wilds of Argaia belong to us born from the red rains and those humans who refuse to flee to the walls shall offer up their lives and all their riches to me and mine as tribute for such pride.”
“Yes master. I see your meaning now,” Marx said with a shaky voice absent of any resolve.
“As I said some glimmer of merit but any time I think I might feel admiration for something like you it is so quickly dashed by the many glaring weaknesses of human sort. Now take me to the vault,” Koin ordered as it bore its teeth.
Marx hurriedly took the great chimera the rest of the way and did his best to keep quiet and avoid eye contact with the monster at his back. They made their way into the bowels of the keep. Koin and Marx had progressed past the point where the battle between man and beast had taken place. This deep in the sublevels, there were no bodies of the duke’s people or chimera creatures roaming the halls and razing what remained of the keeps infrastructure.
Marx stopped outside of a heavy metal door. The door had a sturdy and formidable look about it and it seemed like it could withstand a sound beating. The warped iron binding and shattered locking mechanism were the only signs of damage to be seen on the door but that was enough. Marx grunted and groaned as he exerted himself to swing the door open. With a ghostly whale of metal grinding on metal the door unveiled the collective riches of the slain duke.
“I never knew such wealth existed,” murmured Marx as he looked, wide eyed at stacks of coins, fine jewelry and large works of art. There were many museums in some of the cities that stood before the time of the red rains that did not boast a collection as remarkable as what lay before the crippled man and the wicked chimera overlord.
“This pitiful assortment hardly feels worth the time I have put into this siege,” scoffed Koin with a disgusted air and heavy globs of spit flying from its maw. “Have this loaded and brought with us when we go. I hope the next stronghold we take has greater plunder than these trifles,” continued the chimera with ire as it poked and prodded several of the copious heaps of precious metals and other valuables. The beast snorted and whipped about before stomping out of the vault with all the character of a spoiled child. “Not enough. Such a waste,” Koin grumbled as it vanished into the halls of the fallen keep.