Chapter 18: Restoration

Clerics and healers moved about, healing what wounds they could before the great mass of people was organized into columns and began the tired march back towards the city. As the desperate energy of battle and the dazed excitement of victory left them, their eyes slowly wandered over the mass of corpses and blood staining the once pristine white stone causeway, the stench of death and excrement filling their noses. The sounds of people being overcome with nausea became common noises as they moved through the offal, stepping over comrades and enemies alike. Even Crostrike seems rather green around the gills though she kept up a brave and imperious face. Beowulf watched them all carefully, well aware that, for him, the day's work was not over yet. As the city finally came into view he ordered the columns to halt. Walking out in front of them, he watched as the people gazed at him tiredly and with no small amount of irritation, their homes and warm beds being denied to them for the moment. Looking out over the crowd, he began to speak loudly, his voice carrying over the wind.

"We are all tired, hungry, and hurting so I will not speak long! But this must be said! We have won a great victory today and beaten back those who would threaten us! I called upon you to fight at a moment's notice and you did so with a fierceness and bravery that matched the Dragon Emperor's finest warriors! If he were here now, I know he would be proud of each and every one of you! Before you, your homes and families sit, safe and sound because of what you have done here today! I know that many of you would wish to forget the terror and pain you experienced, but I bid you take heart! Today you stood beside your brothers and sisters in battle, and you did Utopia proud!"

He paused before continuing, his voice weary and grave. "I know that out there lies many friends, people we knew, people we grew up with. But even now, remember that all is not lost! The Dragon Emperor has the power to bring back those that have fallen if they desire! And he will not rest until each and every one of them has been tended to! Tonight, let us care for those who are injured in body and in mind! Hold fast to each other and remember that you are still here amidst those who care for you! This is a night of celebration but also for tears! There is no shame in this, for I cried tears of heartache and anguish alongside the Knight-Errant on many nights after a battle!"

"Let us go now and rest." He said with finality. "Tend to those who need you most and tend to yourselves as well. Tomorrow morning, the guard will have everyone assemble at the gate, for there is one final task to do. Finally, all the Commanders are to report to me for debriefing at the palce once you have seen to your men."

Beowulf stepped aside and the people slowly trekked the last few miles, letting out audible sighs of relief as they finally entered the city walls. Most immediately left to return home and the soldiers allowed them their rest while the garrison forces reported to the barracks for a short debriefing and headcount before being allowed to retire. Beowulf, Crostrike, Alisha, and the other ministers made their way back to the palace, each of them footsore, worn, and dirty. Most of them returned to their apartments and homes upon passing through the innermost wall's gate though Beowulf, Alisha, and Michael continued into the palace. The steward glanced over at them tiredly before speaking. "Shall I call for someone to tend to you?"

Beowulf glanced at Alisha who gave him a tired shake of her head before he turned back to the man. "No. We will be fine and you need rest too. Go and sleep my friend."

The man nodded before slipping away quietly, leaving the pair to walk through the deserted halls, the low lights casting them in gloomy twilight.

"And what about you?" Alisha asked quietly.

Beowulf shook his head. "Go and clean up. I still have to meet with the garrison Commanders and debrief them."

"Not stained in blood and sweat you don't." She said with a twinge of annoyance in her "You look like something out of a nightmare."

Beowulf smirked tiredly. "Don't I always? Besides, they will not have freshened up either. It would not be right for me to sit there in clean finery as they sit in blood-soaked armor. Don't worry, the meeting will be short and then I will come and clean up."

Alisha looked at him for another moment, silently confirming his words before nodding and moving towards their rooms. As her footsteps faded, Beowulf finally allowed himself to sigh tiredly, his shoulders slumping more and his ears wilting as he allowed himself to finally feel the deep tiredness in his bones. The divine blessing of the Saint that had carried him through the day had dimmed after the battle and it was only through force of will that he had not shown how tired he was until now. As strong a warrior as he was, even he had limits and racing up and down the battlefield without pause for many hours had tired him, even as the nanites worked to keep him on his feet. Making his way to the large circular main hall, he waited for the others to arrive, seating himself on the marble floor in one of the shadowed alcoves and allowing his eyes to close. After about an hour they finally trickled in by twos and threes and he emerged to greet them quietly. Once the Commanders had assembled he led them to one of the small conference rooms close by. Most sat down gratefully and Beowulf allowed them a few moments of rest before speaking.

"We are all tired so I will be brief. How many losses to the garrison?" He asked quietly.

The men began to quietly report numbers based on their debriefings.

"About a quarter of the men were slain then." Beowulf stated quietly. "Frankly I'm surprised it wasn't more but I certainly won't complain. What about civilian casualties?" He asked.

"Hard to say since most of them scurried off, not that I blame them." One of the Commanders replied. "We'll certainly get a good head count tomorrow when we do the cleanup."

Beowulf nodded with a frown, the thought of it sitting unhappily in his mind. "Have the people assemble at the gate in the morning and we will begin. Have the guards knock on doors if need be."

The men looked at one another before nodding slowly though they hardly looked enthusiastic at the notion. After a few more questions it was clear there was nothing urgent that needed tending to so the meeting was adjourned. Soon after the last one left, Beowulf summoned one of the terminators to him. Walking in, the plain-faced, brown-haired machine inclined his head respectfully.

"Have your brothers set up watches along the outer walls and the city walls as well." He instructed quietly. "I'd rather not have any more surprises and the garrison will be too busy helping with the cleanup to be effective."

"Of course, sir." The machine replied calmly before bowing to him and departing.

Beowulf eased himself out of the chair, making a mental note to have the room cleaned of any offal that might have gotten onto the furniture before he slowly padded out of the room and wandered back to the rooms he and Alisha shared within the palace. Slipping into the small foyer, he found her dressed in a soft dark robe, her body still filthy from the battle as she sat in a chair near the door, her hair disheveled and her eyes tired. She stood as he closed it and took his hands in hers.

"We're both filthy." She murmured to him. "No point in taking two showers."

He smiled gently at her before nodding as she guided him to the large white walled bathroom and shower that had been installed in their rooms, the Gnoll privately very thankful for the advanced plumbing and technology installed beneath the palace that made it work. Alisha slipped out of her robe, kicking it aside before slowly unclasping the leather straps holding his ring mail together before pulling it off of him and letting it drop to the ground with a clatter. Divesting him of the rest of his soiled clothes, she turned on the warm water and pulled him into the shower with her. The Gnoll allowed himself to lean against the wall as the hot water poured over his body, easing the aches and pains he felt. Soaping her hands, Alisha began to scrub his body, careful to gently wash any cuts or blemishes she found as she slid her hands through his fur, easing out knots and tangles where she found them. Beowulf sighed happily as he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders, rubbing them gently.

"Tomorrow I must lead them back out again to tend to the dead." He murmured quietly, his eyes closed as he relaxed into her ministrations. "I'm not looking forward to it."

"Can't the machines do it?" She asked plaintively. "Why does it need to be you? And why take them at all? They've already gone through enough horror. This won't do them any good."

"They do not understand the consequences of war. Not truly, though they caught a glimpse of it this afternoon on our return." He disagreed sadly as he rubbed his hands in his eyes. "They have fought and killed today but they must know what comes after, when all the fighting is done and the accolades are handed out. They must know there is more than just fighting and winning."

He opened his eyes to see confusion in hers. He sighed quietly before speaking again. "Let me explain it as my Alpha once explained to me. Some return from war and refuse to pick up a weapon ever again. They are desperate for peace at any cost. Others find excitement and purpose in battle and desire it above all else, even if it is not just or right. Neither is desirable; it is a delicate balance we must create in them. If history has taught us anything, it is that war never truly ends. One day, there will be another. One day they will need fight and bleed and handle the dead again. At least then they will have done it before and it will not be…quite as terrible. Even if they do not, they must teach their children these lessons as well. It is a hard thing I know, but it needs to be done."

Alisha sighed sadly and hugged him close. A moment later she felt his strong corded arms embrace her tightly.

The only sound in the shower for some time afterward was the quiet spray of the water.


The morning dawned gray and cheerless as Beowulf, clean and clad in fresh, simple clothes waited outside the gates. As the sun rose higher in the sky people began to emerge from the gate in groups, slowly growing into a large crowd, the garrison soldiers mixed among them. They murmured quietly among themselves but the overcast sky and the task before them weighed on them and seemed to discourage raising one's voice.

Finally, Beowulf called out to them, his voice loud but solemn. "Let us go. There is work to be done."

Leading them back to the battlefield, the garrison forces keeping them in order, they finally came to the killing field with its mass of dead. The vultures and carrion birds were already at work and the flies buzzed noisily. Looking about him, Beowulf turned to the people crowded nearby, none of them happy to be there.

"Let the enemy's dead be placed to the right of the causeway, the honored dead on the left." He instructed. "Place them both in orderly rows and the clerics will see to them. Do not, for any reason, touch your face, even to wipe away tears, when you begin handling them, for there is sickness that can harm you if you do! Once this is done, the clerics will cleanse you of any filth or disease you may have acquired."

He paused before continuing, his voice gentler. "No matter how they look now, remember the power of the Dragon Emperor and his clerics. Bodies can be mended no matter how terribly they were wounded and if they wish to return to the realm of life, they will, for such is the power of Pelor and those who serve them. Hold that hope in your hearts and do not falter in your duty here today, for each of you is stronger than you realize."

Beowulf walked forward and began to drag one of the bodies off to the side. In pairs and small clumps the people began shuffling forward, taking hold of some of the less mangled bodies and began dragging them off the road. The soldiers moved among the dead, dragging the more disfigured and damaged corpses, attempting to spare the citizens some of the grizzlier sights. Men moved like zombies as they went about their work, trying desperately not to think about what they were doing, their gaze avoiding the blank stares of dead eyes and gaping mouths. As lines of bodies began to form along both sides of the road, clerics in white and yellow garb stepped forward and began to gently place their hands above the still figures of the guards and citizens slain, casting mending spells to knit bone and seal flesh before others came after them, muttering prayers and communing with Pelor to learn whether the departed desired to return. Morning faded into afternoon before the thousands of bodies were finally sorted and repaired as best they could. Wagons slowly trundled up the road, stopping next to the long rows of bodies. People began to pile the corpses into the wagons like stacks of wood, the enemy moved beyond the city walls while the honored dead were placed with more care and respect before the conveyances returned to the city. When the somber task was done, clerics filed through the ranks of the people, casting cleansing spells and offering aid before the crowds returned home. Beowulf moved among them as they walked, resting a hand on a shoulder and giving quiet words of encouragement constantly until the people finally dispersed. Left alone at the city gate, he looked back towards the wall many miles away, wondering whether the battle for the northern cities had already been won.


The days passed and some of the willing dead were returned to the land of the living by the more high-ranking priests and wizards of the city though the large number of dead prevented most of them from being returned quickly. Those priests who did not have sufficient power to resurrect the dead walked among the people, offering counsel and aid to those who needed it, even if it meant nothing more than sitting with them for a while and listening while they poured out their grief and pain. The city shuffled through the daily routines of life with a zombie-like numbness as they waited anxiously for the Dragon Emperor and his retinue to return. The people had believed that the walls of their Utopia were unassailable, its defense perfect. The battle had shaken that notion and awakened them to the reality that danger still existed, even here. Finally, a few weeks later, a large mass of soldiers bearing the standard of the dragon sunburst appeared on the road in the distance. As the crowds slowly gathered to welcome the garrison and the Emperor home, the doors of the city were opened, allowing the men to pass through. As the people looked on, they were dismayed to find the men marching tiredly with weary faces, a sure indication that the battle had not gone well.

Even more distressing was the fact that the Emperor was nowhere to be seen.

As Beowulf stood off to the side, his face grew grimmer as he watched the procession of men file by, the crowd murmuring to themselves. The Gnoll quietly slipped away, returning to the palace as the city's doors finally slammed shut with an ominous thud. Making his way through the city he entered through the northern gates until he came to the palace itself. Entering through the doors he strode through the foyer before he heard the quiet clearing of a throat nearby. Pausing, he turned to see a figure in a dark cloak in one of the alcoves, his face hidden from view. Frowning slightly he walked towards the figure before it lifted its head slightly, revealing the acid-scarred face of Davis. The terminator's pseudo-skin was red and inflamed and entire patches were eaten away entirely, revealing the coldly gleaming metal skull underneath while one of his optics lit his face in a dark red glow.

Beowulf gazed at him for a moment before he spoke quietly. "You look terrible."

"Still better than you." Davis retorted softly, a slight smirk on his scarred lips before they turned down again. "Come, we have things to discuss."

The pair walked quickly through the maze of corridors before finding one of the private rooms in the palace that was secure from scrying and other forms of detection. Closing the door behind him and locking it, the enchantments around the room flared, activating themselves automatically before Davis sat down at the gray stone table in the middle of the room, Beowulf seating himself across from him a moment later.

"How did it go?" He asked quietly, his eyes fixed on his friend.

"We won, if that's what you mean." Davis replied curtly. "But it looks like he was right. They did have an ace up their sleeve. One we didn't expect."

"And?"

"The Scarlet Brotherhood is a much greater threat than we realized." Davis replied sourly. "They have powerful weapons at their disposal and can seemingly infiltrate anywhere they see fit. I managed to kill one of their assassins but he was able to do this to me." He stated, pointing to his face. "To be honest, I'm lucky to have this much of a face but my nanites were only able to repair so much of the damage without new material to work with."

Beowulf stared at him in surprise for a moment. "What happened?"

"He trapped me in an energy cage and filled it with acidic fog." Davis replied tersely. "I managed to kill him but it didn't disrupt the spells. By the time they wore off a few hours later the battle was over and I was down to my endoskeleton and even that was getting corroded. Fortunately I managed to cover myself up and repair enough of my face that I could still give orders to the men. Otherwise they would have run screaming, thinking Nerull had come into their midst."

He smirked for a second before refocusing on Beowulf. "Now, I need all the information on the battle here and what happened just prior to it. I saw the mountain of roasted bodies as we neared the outer wall."

"How do I—" Beowulf began.

"Just sit there and relax." Davis interrupted him, anticipating his question. "The nanites in your brain will be able to relay the information to me."

Beowulf nodded and sat back. Davis's normal eye turned bright blue as his uncovered optic suddenly began to glow brighter. The machine sat back with a blank look on his face as data streamed between the two of them though Beowulf didn't feel a thing. Finally after about a half-hour, Davis's eyes ceased glowing and he sat forward with a considering frown on his face as he analyzed the new data.

"So the Scarlet Brotherhood was here as well." He muttered pensively, his chin resting on his fist. "They're the only ones who could account for the death of the gate guards as well as bypass the protections of the tunnel wards." Davis sighed tiredly. "Security will have to be tightened even further."

"I noticed someone rather important was missing from the ranks when the rest of the garrison returned." Beowulf said after a few moments.

Davis nodded. "They sucked him into the negative energy plane using some kind of arcane ritual after an assassin damaged him with some kind of spear. Fortunately, I was able to rally the troops and whip them into battle frenzy. The fight was basically decided after that. No way in hell the troops were going to let any of them go. I suppose a few got away but it doesn't matter. High Priest Grenell is dead and Naelax's army is decimated. They won't be able to recover from this; I'll make sure of it." He promised grimly.

"As we discussed before, have the people congregate outside the city's eastern gate in three days. We'll start it then." Davis instructed him.

Beowulf nodded. "As you say."


Two days passed and word spread throughout the city like wildfire that the Dragon Emperor had failed to return with the garrison forces that had escorted him north. Many feared the worst, believing the grim faces of the men proof enough though some held out hope he would return. On the morning of the third day, horns rang out across the city before the steward's voice echoed between the buildings, asking all of the citizens to congregate outside the eastern gate of the city. Businesses closed and people filled the streets before they once again found themselves outside the city walls. Standing a short distance from the crowds, Michael, Beowulf, and Davis stood before them with the ministers behind them. Davis had taken the time to obtain new nanites and flesh for himself and was able to stand with them, his body as pristine as ever. Looking at the group, Davis nodded before Michael stepped forward, speaking loudly to the crowd.

"Citizens of Utopia! Hear me! I am Michael, Chief Steward to the Dragon Emperor! As many of you know, our Lord did not return with the garrison that fought outside East Fair! Many of you believe him slain! But I tell you now, do not despair for there is still hope! Last night, His Eminence contacted me, speaking directly into my mind! He told me of the battle that transpired and the dark place in which he resides! 'But', he told me, 'I can return to them once again, if it is their will'!"

"People of Utopia! We stand at a cross roads at this moment! Even since he first appeared in this world, our Lord and Master has guided us, and this city! He has worked and sacrificed so that we might have all that we now possess! And every day, he worked tirelessly for our benefit! Now it is our turn to do for him! Do we leave him in that dark place or do we summon him back to guide us once more?!"

The crowd roared as they cried out for Prometheus to return. Waiting a moment to gauge the crowd's reaction, he nodded and held up his hands for silence.

"So be it then! Kneel where you stand and pray with all of your being that our Lord returns from the darkness!"

Quickly the people knelt on the hard concrete and soft dewy grass, most bowing their heads. Turning to face the sun, the others knelt as well though Michael remained standing, his arms outstretched in supplication.

"Prometheus! Dragon Emperor and Great Father to us all! Know the will of your people and return to us! Throw off the shackles that bind you and let the light of our faith guide you as your light and faith have guided us! Come to us Lord, we pray, for you are what we desire above all!"

After several quiet moments, an undercurrent of subtle energy began flowing amongst the people. Many could feel their skin tingle as hope began to bloom in their hearts. Suddenly a brisk wind began to blow across the plain before them as arcs of golden energy began to appear in the sky with a loud crackling noise. Gasps were heard before the people began to beg and plead loudly for Prometheus to appear. Suddenly a blaze of gold and white light erupted in the sky before them amidst the golden energy as a tremendous roar of victory filled the air. The blaze of light exploded outward and in its place Prometheus floated.

"I HAVE RETURNED!" He shouted triumphantly, his aura flowing around him like golden fire. "I HAVE HEARD THE WILL OF MY PEOPLE AND I COULD DO NAUGHT BUT OBEY, FOR NOTHING COULD HOLD ME BACK FROM SUCH FAITH AND DEVOTION! REJOICE, MY PEOPLE, YOUR EMPEROR HAS RETURNED VICTORIOUS!"

The people stood with an incredible roar of happiness as Prometheus landed before them. Overcome, they ran towards him and pressed against him, their hands gripping at his scales, desperate to touch him. Laughing deeply he spread his aura over them, allowing them to bask in his power. Everyone in attendance felt an immense flare of joy and happiness fill them as he covered them with his divine energy. Many wept openly, their faces rapturous as they cried out happily.

"My people." He said gently as he looked about him. "Your faith in me is a great and powerful thing. Never for one moment doubt this. I have heard of what transpired in the city during my absence and though my heart aches that you endured such hardship, I am glad that you stand here now, your eyes bright and your hearts eased. Come! Bring those who fell in battle defending their home and I shall restore them to you, for you deserve no less. In the days to come, I shall return to the battlefield and do the same for those that fell there, for all of them deserve no less."

A few minutes later the wagons holding the dead began to appear as they rolled outside the city. Standing, Prometheus bade the people to move aside before he lumbered over to where the wagons had stopped. Stretching out his paws over the group of wagons, they began to glow with golden light.

"Pelor, Lord of Life and Light, your servant humbly requests that these brave men, recently slain in defending their homes and families, be restored to life if they are willing. Let their sacrifice be worthy of a second chance to live! Let your power flow through me and bless them with new life so that you might be glorified and all will know your goodness, for your compassion knows no bounds!"

The golden light flowed over the bodies laid out on the carts and seemingly infused them with energy before quiet gasps of breath were heard from them. Moments later, many of the formerly dead began to sit up as they looked about in confusion. Cries were heard from the crowd as family members surged forward to embrace the newly awakened though some of the bodies remained still, their souls unwilling to return to the life they had lived. The restored men were helped down off the wagons as their loved ones gathered around them before they began shouting praises to Prometheus and Pelor. The dragon smiled indulgently, his eyes shining with happiness as he watched the people around him celebrate the return of the fallen.

As the morning rolled into afternoon parties were held in the streets and the entire city seemed to vibrate with jubilation while Prometheus and the others returned to the palace. Transforming back into his older human form, he, Davis, and Beowulf spent part of the afternoon speaking with the council on various important matters before finally dismissing them, allowing them to join the celebrations. Slipping away from their retainers they notified the terminators of their destination before moving deep into the bowels of the palace. Coming to a specific corridor lined with a series of double doors, they stopped before a certain unremarkable pair. At Davis's wireless command the barricaded doors were unlocked from the inside and opened, revealing several armed terminators on the other side. The trio walked into the room before locking the door and barring it once more. The room they stood in was bare and featureless except for the dais in the center. Upon it stood a silvery semi-circular archway built into the floor, covered with electronics and emitters along the inside edge with a control console next to it. Davis immediately went to the console and quickly entered a series of commands. With a quiet hum, the emitters began to blaze with light before firing into the center of the archway, filling it with swirling energies. Once the gateway had stabilized, the trio walked through it without hesitation, emerging on the other side into a heavily guarded and bare metal room, an array of advanced weapons pointing at them held by terminators and small turrets emplacements. The small division of armed terminators quickly scanned them before lowering their weapons and one of the metallic slabs that made up the walls slid downward revealing a door. The group quickly walked through into one of the lower sub-basements of their headquarters on Earth before entering the hidden express elevator which took them to the top level of the complex. As they stepped out, Heaven's Light called to them from the speakers built into the ceiling.

"It is good to see you three. Asher and Davis's double are in their offices and are prepared to give you a full report on the company's projects and financial status."

Prometheus nodded. "Thank you. Davis and I will meet with them shortly."

Moving to one of the well-furnished studies, Prometheus and Beowulf seated themselves in soft leather chairs while Davis prepared a drink for the two of them.

"All in all it went rather well." Davis remarked casually as he poured some brandy into a small glass.

Prometheus nodded. "It did indeed. Naelax has been crushed militarily and politically. Once we have solidified our hold on the northern cities, any remnants of the Garasteth or Naelax hierarchy that does not agree with our policies will be easily replaced. Torquann will have no choice but to capitulate if they wish to survive and the Bone March will soon be under our control as well. And most importantly, Utopia still stands strong, its people hardier than before."

"It still bothers me that such a deception was necessary." Beowulf grumbled. "We should not send others to fight for us when we are able to do it ourselves. Not to mention the fact that the 'ceremony' we performed today was unneeded. You could have returned immediately once the battle was done."

Prometheus sighed quietly, resting his brow against his hand. "It did not sit well with me either but Davis convinced me of the necessity of it. We knew Grenell was up to something but even Pelor and Bahamut could not give me enough information to truly know what the future held in that regard since Hextor was hiding that part of the plan from them. Thus it seemed prudent to send a weaker double in my place. The Scarlet Brotherhood is powerful and ruthlessly cunning; they can never know the true extent of my powers or they will find a way to circumvent them. It would not surprise me to learn they had destroyed demi-gods before. At the moment, they merely believe me to be a powerful dragon. They already know too much about Davis. I would not have them know me just as well."

Davis smiled crookedly. "The avatar you sent out with the garrison was perfect. He was powerful and charismatic but not so powerful that the Brotherhood's weapon and the Garasteth wizards couldn't destroy him."

"Ah, but he was not destroyed." Prometheus smiled quietly. "Such a thing would have weakened me for a time. I discorporated him and drew the power back to myself an instant before he would have crossed over into the dark energy plane. Watching through his eyes, I knew the exact moment to retrieve him and the enemy was none the wiser."

"And thus our enemies are fed misinformation about the limits of your strengths and your weaknesses." Davis concluded smugly. "While you remained hidden in the palace all that time."

"What would have happened if Davis had not been able to rally them?" Heaven's Light asked curiously, breaking into the conversation. "Or the defense of the city had gone poorly?"

Prometheus waved a hand. "I was ready to intervene if necessary and make a remarkable display of my miraculous return in the nick of time but I would not have done so unless the battles were truly going badly. Bahamut expects his vassals to intervene only when necessary when others can fight for themselves. I already stretch that expectation by leading my men into battle when I am not needed. And the terminators were ready to reinforce the city's defenses if Beowulf had needed aid."

The dragon took a sip of his brandy before sighing unhappily, his face reflective as he glanced at Beowulf. "Michael's statements at the ceremony were not technically false as my circumstances were broadly as he described them. I can say with honesty that their faith and desire for me to appear before them played a role in my appearance before them even though it was not as necessary as they believed it to be."

Davis smirked. "Well, it did tie them even tighter to you and your rule. Zealous citizens are so much better than disgruntled ones."

Prometheus glared at him slightly. "It pains me to mislead and manipulate my people even indirectly, given their trust in me. And yet, I have come to realize I cannot be completely transparent in everything we do if our empire is to survive the Brotherhood, not to mention the Illithids and any other enemies we may encounter. There may be times when such deceptions are necessary in order to ensure our survival."

The Emperor paused for a moment before he continued, still focused on Davis. "I realize you have been engaged in activities I...might not agree with for some time, my friend, given the number of terminators constantly reporting to you. I also recall a conversation we had several months ago regarding this very topic when the Dragon Stalker came calling. I still cannot condone some of the things you do officially, but I have come to understand the necessity of such things. Here and now I charge you to do what you must to ensure my people not only survive, but thrive, my friend."

Prometheus paused a second before continuing. "Just as America has a CIA and Britain an MI6 to ensure their safety from external threats, so we must have something similar. Create the office as you see fit and run it in the same manner. You need not share all the details of what you do with me unless you feel it necessary but you will keep Beowulf in your complete confidence. I trust your ethical programming but I also trust Beowulf and his sense of what is right. Tell him your plans and discuss them with him before you put them into place."

Davis stared at him quietly for a moment before nodding.

Prometheus watched him thoughtfully for a moment before he continued, his face becoming stern. "One more thing. I expect you to defer to his judgment if he considers a plan too dangerous or untenable. Do not think I am placing you under an unreasonable restriction, I know very well how...ferocious a Gnoll can be and I know how protective he is of me and the people he serves." He smiled slightly, glancing over at Beowulf before looking back at Davis with a serious look. "But if he finds it necessary to come to me because you disregard his recommendations or commit to actions too extreme, you will not like the consequences, I assure you." He warned quietly.

Davis looked at him unflinchingly before nodding. "I understand, my Emperor."

Prometheus turned to look at Beowulf. "I am giving you a great deal of authority my friend." He warned him. "Do not abuse your position and do not come to me with complaints simply because you two cannot agree on something. You must learn to work together and consider the other's concerns honestly when you disagree. If you do report him to me, know that it could easily spell his exile from my empire or even his destruction if what he has done warrants such a punishment. I cannot protect him from the laws of my empire if I learn he has worked against them. Remember that." He ordered the Gnoll intently, his gaze piercing.

Beowulf nodded slowly, his face solemn. "Of course, my Alpha. I will not betray his confidence unless I deem it absolutely necessary."

Prometheus nodded. "And just as we need someone to monitor external events and prevent them from becoming threats, we also need to have an internal security force as well. Guards we have plenty of but they cannot sniff out enemy agents and moles as Loraquet proved, to our detriment. Davis and his terminators will help in this regard but even he cannot do everything. You have proven yourself more than able to fulfill the duties we need. As of this moment you are not just my bodyguard but my chief of internal security. The defense of this city from obvious as well as hidden threats within it will be your responsibility. As you two will be working together anyway, I expect there to be complete transparency and cooperation between the offices you create."

Beowulf knelt before him, pressing a fist to his heart as he inclined his head. "You do me much honor, Alpha. It will be as you say."

Davis spoke up. "It looks like we have a bit of work ahead of us, getting everything set up and making sure the northern cities are reorganized properly. What will you do when things have finally settled down?"

Prometheus steepled his hands before him. "The Illithids are still a threat that must be dealt with and I must meet with the other kingdoms and open dialogues with them if we are to have a lasting peace. So far the southern cities are happy with the deals we have brokered but I will need to open other trade agreements with the other kingdoms across the continent if everyone is to enjoy the advances I will provide. Then too, there are still many evils in this world that must be dealt with but there is one mission that burns in my heart to be completed."

"And what is that?" Davis asked curiously.

Prometheus smiled quietly. "The one Bahamut commanded I undertake as recompense for my apotheosis. I shall restore the metallic dragons to this world and the last remaining chromatics that follow Tiamat's evil ways will perish."

"By my hand," he declared quietly, "my brethren, the dragons of good shall return and walk the land once more!"