There are days, he thought, when I just shouldn't have gotten out of bed. Today was one of those days. Word had reached him this morning of a new tomb being opened on Korriban. Surprising to say the least, seeing as the Valley of the Dark Lords was the most heavily excavated site on the planet. And yet, a new site had in fact been found. As the Lord of the Pyramid of Ancient Knowledge, the excavation of this tomb fell under his purview. Instead of sending in a team of lackeys to excavate the find of the millennium, he decided to take his own expert and explore the ruin personally. You never knew what you would find in these tombs. Super weapons, ancient forgotten teachings… Force eating assassins… Sith Lords stuffed the oddest things in their crypts.
This tomb in particular, seemed to have once belonged to a low level Darth called Vacuus. Records of him were virtually nonexistent, save for the fact that he disappeared, presumed dead, shortly after receiving the title. Darth Vaccus' first order after achieving his title had been the construction of a tomb. An unusual thing to do, as it implied that the Sith believed they would soon die. A sufficiently powerful Sith would have his tomb built after his death by his servants using the remainder of his assets before they were absorbed by some other Lord. To do so before was seen as weakness, an inability to maintain one's own assets while still alive, and to protect them after death. And yet, Vacuus had done it anyway, and then disappeared. It seemed his fears had not been unfounded. Besides this interesting story, nothing was known of Vacuus. How had he achieved his title? What part of the Empire did he serve in? Where did he come from? Answers to all of these questions, were not to be found in the tomb.
The only thing in said tomb was a main chamber, bereft of traps, droids, acid pits, fire pits, monsters, or any of the other things Sith liked to leave behind to test the strength of those who would defile their resting place. To be honest, it was mildly disappointing. The room contained two things, an empty sarcophagus, which Darth Vacuus would have been placed in had his body been found, and a single altar.
The altar was the only thing of mild interest in the entire room. The eye was drawn to it, its importance within the structure undeniable. It was the focus of the room even more than the sarcophagus was, and it radiated power. Not dark power, nor light power, just… power. It was like nothing he'd even felt, if he didn't know any better, he'd say it didn't even feel like the Force.
"My Lord, I'm getting some strange readings from the altar. It appears to be emitting some kind of energy field" said Talos Drelik, his field medic and a former member of the Imperial Reclamation Service. He hadn't picked him up for his medic skills, for he was already well trained in the Sith equivalents. No, Talos was a brilliant archaeologist, and a fine assistant to have on these digs. He knew how to handle Sith tombs. The fact that the energy he sensed could be picked up by Talos' instruments had some interesting implications, virtually confirming that the Force was not its source.
"Is it dangerous?" he asked, better to be sure, he thought.
"I don't know. I'm not picking up anything besides that it exists. It's like nothing I've ever seen." Talos looked at him with a determined look, obviously stumped. Like his master, he enjoyed a good mystery; it usually meant the inevitable find would be truly extraordinary.
"Perhaps a physical examination is in order. Nothing of value has ever been acquired without a little risk." And Sith were all about taking risks. He stepped towards the altar, its obsidian finish reflecting his visage nearly perfectly. The altar was a shining slab of darkness that came to mid-shin height, with two curved prongs arcing up from the edges, creating the shape of a circle that did not meet at the top. The altar, while quite obviously Sith in origin, did not follow any pre-established design philosophy he was familiar with. In fact, it didn't even seem to belong in this tomb. The only reason its origins were so obvious was the inscription of the last line of the Sith Code in its base.
He stopped at that moment, noticing for the first time that it was not in fact the last line of the code. It was written in the ancient Sith language, which had accounted for his lapse, but at second glance it was clear. The proper line, "The Force shall free me" read "Wonoksh Qyâsik nun." This inscription read "Wonoksh Laisvas nun." Literally, "The Void shall free me."
"The Void shall free me?" No sooner had he muttered the words out loud when the area between the prongs on the altar… shifted. There was no other way to describe it. Shifting into existence between the prongs was an ovoid… something. It was perfectly flat, green, and there. It gave off no light, but seemed to be illuminated itself from some unseen source. It defied his senses. It radiated the same not-Force that the altar itself did, but at exponentially higher levels. It was overwhelming; it could not be shut out. It clawed at his mind, beckoning him forth.
"My Lord!" Talos shouted, his voice seemed so far away, "Step away, the readings are off the scale, I can't make se-!" he was cut off as his datapad exploded in his hands, "My Lord! Stop!"
He couldn't help himself of course. The power rampaged through his mind. Freedom. Freedom lies through this gate. Freedom from the Sith. Freedom from fear. Freedom of discovery. Your heresy will not matter here. Come. I need you. Come. Answer to my guidance. Please. Please.
His steps toward the ovoid became slower. Slower. They stopped. He looked back to see Talos frantically pulling him back by his belt. Brave, always so very brave, despite his claims otherwise. He barely managed to get a hold of his own desires. His desire to step through that portal, to be free. But he managed it. The portal, for that is what it must be, continued to scream at his mind. Calling him, urging him onwards.
"I'm fine Talos. Thank you."
"Think nothing of it my Lord. A pleasure to serve."
He looked back at the portal. Looking at it in a new light. Now that he had resisted its initial call, he found it much easier to subdue its "voice." The power was still there, and it showed no signs of diminishing. It was almost as if there was someone on the other side, begging and pleading with him for help. He sighed. He was too "helpful" for his own good. He almost always went out of his way to ease the suffering of his subjects, something that other Sith seemed to be growing suspicious of. He had no doubt his light side leanings would one day be discovered, but that day had not yet come, and he would burn that bridge when he came to it. But for now…
"Return to the ship Talos, and await my orders."
"Are you sure my Lord? Do you really intend…"
"To step through? Yes. Someone or something is calling for me. It knows me somehow." Your heresy will not matter here. It knew.
"My lord it is a Sith artifact. For all we know it could lead…"
"If there is one thing I am convinced of, it is that this portal is not Sith. I don't know what it is, but the potential rewards it could bring… I must take the risk."
He pulled out a datapad of his own, the one with orders he had made out months ago, to have his apprentice promoted to Darth. She had been made a Lord upon his ascension to the council, and enough time had passed that he could promote her to Darth within his organization. She would be his second in command within the Pyramid of Ancient Knowledge, and in a prime position to take over should he not return. She followed him with a tremendous amount of loyalty, and believed as strongly in changing the Empire from within as he did. He assigned her the title of Darth Eclipsis (light, covered by darkness), and passed the datapad to Talos. He pulled out a second datapad that contained messages to each of his companions in the event of his death, and transferred its contents to the first. He put the now blank datpad back in his pocket.
"Should I not return, follow her as you would me."
"Of course, my lord."
Talos turned to leave, before stopping, turning back and saluting "If you don't return my Lord, I just wanted to say it was an honor to serve you. I've never met a Sith like you, and I doubt I ever will again. The Empire would be a lesser place without you. That said I fully expect I'll be seeing you soon. Good luck my Lord."
After Talos had gone, he once again turned to the portal. It was exactly as it was when it first appeared, and showed no signs of going away. Its call was as strong as ever, but he had gradually become better at tuning it out. With an effort of will, he called the Force into a bubble around him, arcs of lightening illuminating his spherical shield of pure Force energy. Better to be safe then to go charging in like a lunatic. Steeling himself for whatever might come; ready to draw on all his power to unleash the fury of the Force on whatever was summoning him if it was a trap… he stepped through.
The students fully expected the explosion. They expected Louise's reaction to the explosion. They prepared their insults; they were part way through them when the dust cloud was inexplicably cleared by a great wind. Standing at the epicenter of Louise's latest failure, was a robed figure, arms outstretched. The man stood tall, holding himself as a noble would, and very much dressed as a priest would. Panic ran through many of the students, had louise summoned a priest of the church? Two things put the lie to that almost immediately. The robes, while cut in a similar manner to the high priests of the church, were armored. Heavily armored. The entire upper body coated in a shining metal that was too white to be steel. The forearms were also armored, and strange tubing connected pieces of the armor together. The second thing was his mask, or rather, his helmet. Formed in a twisted mockery of a human skull, the eyes were black pits that seemed to stare into your very soul. At his belt, where a wand would usually be, was a thick cylinder, shaped like a wand, but of metal instead of wood.
As the figure lowered his arms, arcs of lightning played about in a sphere around him, and then faded from view. He looked around, noting each student in turn, before setting his eyes on Colbert. Setting out towards the obvious authority figure made the students a bit less anxious, the stare of that mask had been most unnerving, so much so that even the local Germanian had forgotten her taunting for the moment.
The man began conversing with Colbert, but the words were nonsensical. Complete gibberish to all those listening. Colbert responded, though it was obvious the armored priest understood none of it. They went back and forth for several minutes, each time the priest using a clearly different language. A dozen of them. More. The entire scene was surreal. The Zero had summoned something, some kind of armored warrior death priest, and an obviously foreign one at that. They were all snapped out of their reverie when the man put his left hand on Colbert's head, and Colbert screamed in pain.
Every student in the courtyard, even Louise, had their wands leveled at the strange man, the man who could cause pain with a touch. They probably would have hit him with a volley of magical spells ranging from balls of water to fiery explosions had Colbert not stopped them.
"Wands down! Do it now!"
Shocked at this, the students warily lowered their wands, well, most of them.
"He's trying to… rrrrgggg… communicate."
The man retracted his hand, appearing somewhat apologetic, even through the terrifying mask. Somehow. The shock at him now speaking the local language perfectly was enough to get the rest of the wands lowered. Well, dropped in shock, but the result was the same.
"I'm sorry about that, but I needed to learn the language. Taking it from your teacher's mind was the fastest way." The man addressed the students, clearly in control of the situation, not at all concerned at the salvo of firepower leveled at him not thirty seconds ago.
"I'm looking for the one who summoned me. I believe the exact words were 'Answer to my guidance'." Every hand in the courtyard pointed to one pink haired girl standing off to the side. None of them wanted anything to do with this man. He was obviously dangerous. The man turned to her, leveling his masked gaze on her. "Why?" It was not so much a question as it was a demand for an answer. To deny an explanation was to invite destruction, or perhaps merely pain. It was difficult to tell. Everything about his dress screamed death, and yet his demeanor carried no such threat. It was terribly confusing. What was he?
"My name is Louise Francios le Blanc de la Valliere, and I have summoned you here as my familiar spirit!"
The man tilted his head to the side in obvious confusion, and turned to Colbert and made a gesture that made it obvious that elaboration was required.
"A familiar spirit," he explained, "is a servant and lifelong companion of a mage. A protector and an assistant, to aid the mage in whatever way they are able."
"A slave." The disgust was obvious. He practically radiated with it. Such vitriol in those words made many students flinch.
"A partner. A mage and a familiar are legally the same being, both responsible for the actions of the other; as far as I know a human familiar has never been summoned. This is a unique event."
The man once again looked at Louise, examining her, judging her; he appeared to weigh the possibilities, trying to decide whether going through the binding was worth his time. The pinkette was angered by this. Who was he to judge her!
"I will not be judged by you. My worthiness is not for you to evaluate. I summoned you. You will be my familiar."
It was hard to tell, but if she didn't know any better, she would swear the man was smiling beneath his helmet. Apparently he'd made some kind of decision.
"You have potential. I sense great things wait in your future. With our combined strength, we could… well, we can do anything. What will you choose as your fate?" He turned to Colbert "What must I do?"
"The familiar contract is sealed with an incantation… followed by a kiss."
"Of course it is." The man stepped forward, and kneeled before Louise. The fact that he had agreed to a familiar binding shocking many of the students, but the prospect at finally seeing the face behind the mask was enough to squelch it almost instantly. The man raised his hands, unclasping the neck seals, and unhitching it from his armor. He raised his helmet, and revealed the visage of a demon.
"Who… What are you!?" Louise screamed. He noted that panic had spread through the students, some with weaker constitutions bolting for the safety of the castle, while the stronger simply stood in shock.
"Calm down girl, you act as if you've never seen a Sith before" He said.
"What in Brimir's name is a Sith!?"
"We are the native people of Korriban. Please tell me you've heard of Korriban."
"N… No." Those students still remaining had calmed down, the braver ones leveling their wands at him, and the balding human in charge had brought his staff up as well.
"Oh for the love of… Have you heard of Coruscant? Corellia? Taris? Alderaan? No? None of those? What kind of backwater world am I on then? Where's the nearest space port?"
Something approaching fear began to bubble up in the back of his mind. He searched the language that he had pulled from the balding man's mind, checking for very specific words. Lightsaber, blaster, starship, Spaceport, hyperspace, droid, commlink… Nothing. None of those words had an equivalent. Some of the words themselves existed: saber, ship, port, or star, but none of them attached to the proper concepts. All the things he once took for granted as necessary for civilization. These people had none of that.
"What have I gotten myself into…"
There are days, he thought, when I just shouldn't have gotten out of bed.
His initial panic over, he turned to the girl once more. "It seems I've overestimated my position here. I had assumed if this didn't pan out I would just go home. That no longer appears to be an option. Tell me, how do your people treat Demons here?"
The girl, Louise, looked at him confused, "Well, the church would try to have you exorcised I guess. If that didn't work, they'd kill you." He laughed at that, greater organizations had tried.
"And if I was your familiar?"
She appeared to think harder about this answer, "Well, a demon summoned by the familiar summoning ritual would mean it was blessed by Brimir. Therefore… if you were my familiar, they'd have to let you be. If you professed to be a follower of the religion, a convert, all the better."
"You have quite the devious mind girl. I don't know who Brimir is, but if he produces people like you as his followers I would learn his teachings. I am the keeper of the Pyramid of Ancient Secrets after all; I like to learn new things."
"Ancient Secrets?" Ah, a hunger for knowledge, much like his own. He was beginning to like this girl even more. Who knows, with Ashara now a Darth, he could use a new apprentice.
"I'll tell you about it later, for now don't we have a contract to fulfill?"
The girl pulled out a stick, obviously some kind of focus for her power, the same not-Force that he had sensed in the portal and the altar.
"My name is Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere. Pentagon of the five elemental powers; bless this humble being, and make him my familiar." The kiss she placed upon his lips was gentle, hesitant, and thankfully, over practically before it began. He was not in the habit of kissing well, anyone. Romantic prospects for a Sith Lord are unsurprisingly low. Besides, she was much too young for him anyway.
All these thought were burned away by a searing pain ripping through his body. It started as pain, then faded to heat, then concentrated itself on his left hand. He pulled the gauntlet off, shocked to see strange runes carving themselves into his hand. He called on the force, both numbing the pain and infusing his hand with healing energy. His greatest skill, coaxing wounded flesh to mend. To his own surprise, the scarring on his hand did not heal. He could feel his cells repairing themselves around the carved area, but the runes on his hand acted like they had been there his whole life, as if it was not an injury at all.
"Curious." He mumbled to himself.
The balding man approached him immediately after the ritual had ended, "May I see the runes?"
"Sure, Why not?" He held his hand out as the man copied the runes onto a sheet of honest to emperor's flimsi, and turned to his students to yell "Class is dismissed, congratulations on your successful summonings, I will see you all next class!" before hurrying off towards the castle.
He turned to see Louise looking up at him, now evaluating him, her new familiar. "So, do have a name, or do I just call you demon?"
He chuckled; the girl had fire in her. Passion to rival just about every acolyte he'd ever seen. If she could master it, she'd likely be a right terror on the battlefield. "I had a name once, but I gave it up when I accepted the title of Darth. If you must call me something, you can call me Darth Imperius."
Imperius had been assigned a set of quarters near Louise's own. Imperius was not currently in them, in fact, he was currently roaming the halls, trying the get an idea of layout of the school. As a contingency, he also had set his datapad to passive scan the environment, auto-generating a map of the area that he could look at if he was lost. Whenever he found an interesting area, he added a waypoint to the map. He had passed several students in the halls, though he didn't really question what they were doing this late. It was painfully obvious. Passion was not something easily hidden from a Lord of the Sith.
His wanderings eventually led him outside, where he looked up at this world's two moons. Imperius smiled, the two moons really were a sight to behold. The sky was bursting with stars, a side effect of the lack of city light to cover them up. The academy seemed to be the only light source for kilometers in any direction. It was a rare opportunity for some ground side stargazing. He'd always found the void of space to be an incredibly calming influence, a reminder to take a step back and remember how small you are. Even the hottest sun is rendered cold by sufficient distance.
Passion could burn like a sun, but in the end it always burnt out. It was not a sustainable source of power. It had to be called forth, again and again, and it left one drained. The Jedi believed their way was superior, that absolute calm granted greater power in the long run. In a way they were right. The light side was far more consistent than the dark, but they were also wrong. Passion is not just rage and hate. Passion is love, and joy, and sorrow. Harnessing all emotion, to boost power in a time of need, to protect that which one cared for, that had provided him the power to perform his greatest feats. He had toppled Thanaton not with hate, but with fear and pride and sorrow and joy. He had not hated Thanaton, he pitied him, for being alone.
His thoughts turned to his companions. He'd expected to miss them terribly, they'd become as much a part of his life as being Force sensitive had. They represented his freedom from slavery, they, in their own twisted way, were his family. While he would like to see them again, he felt nothing resembling home sickness. Odd, but not altogether concerning. Perhaps he was simply stronger in that area than he previously believed.
He turned his head as he sensed a presence approaching. This one possessed passion unbridled and unconstrained, unlike Louise, who attempted to keep hers locked down but often failed to do so. It was refreshing in a way; this presence was not boiling with rage and hate as Sith often do, but with more pleasant emotions. At the moment, curiosity and barely restrained happiness, with a hint of lust.
"Is there something you needed?" he asked.
She jumped a bit, apparently not realizing she'd been spotted, though she regained her composure quickly. "Not really, I was just curious about our resident demon."
Getting called demon wasn't likely to change "I really should just put the mask back on. No one cared who I was until I took off the mask."
"I cared; I knew someone handsome had to match up with that physique."
The girl had sidled up next to him at this point, wrapping her arms around his left arm, a position he wasn't entirely comfortable with, being much too intimate, yet also strangely comforting. There were few individuals willing to get that close to him. The Empire's ingrained fear of all Sith having caused nearly the entire population to distance themselves from their overlords. Her lack of fear felt nice.
"hmm, I'm not even your species."
"I'm sure the important things are still there."
"Did you just come here to flirt with the exotic new arrival, or can I go back to stargazing?"
"Looking for something in particular?"
"Of course. I'm trying to figure out where I am."
"Tristain Academy of Magic" she replied.
"Funny, no. I'm trying to find my position in relation to Koriban, but I've never seen constellations even remotely similar to these. I have no idea where in the galaxy I am. I'm not even in the same sector as anywhere I've ever been."
"So if you don't know where you are…"
"I don't know where to go." This was disheartening in a way. It meant he was well and truly stranded far from home. He could very well die here. The girl seemed to digest his statement for a moment, and then decided to ask a new question.
"What is your homeland like?"
Their insistence on using words like homeland led Imperius to the conclusion that they weren't exactly at the stage of recognizing other habitable worlds as a possibility. He decided to phrase his answer without mention of any silly details like hyperspace, other planets, or even the fact that his Empire was a galaxy spanning one.
"Korriban is all desert. Red sand as far as the eye can see, and it's much hotter there than it is here. That is not to say I enjoy Korriban more than here. My people may have been born there, but it is not a nice place to live. It's too hot, there are always monsters trying to kill you, and the government is full of infighting lunatics who want to conquer everything. All told, I don't miss it at all."
"Then why do you want to go back?"
"Why would you go back to such a terrible place?" He knew the answer, so did she.
"You love someone there."
"A whole group of people. They've become my family in a strange way. I… I miss them."
"You don't have a lover?"
"Sith… Sith often take lovers, but they don't really do love. Love leads to mercy. Mercy is weakness."
"You don't sound convinced."
What did he have to lose? Might as well go all in. The portal said his heresy would not matter here. Time to find out if that was true.
"I'm not. The Sith all believe that the only way to power is through fear and rage and hate. I know there is another path, but they are all too blind and stupid to realize the truth. That sorrow and joy and love are not weakness, but strength to us all. A united Sith Empire, harnessing all our emotions, and not just the destructive ones could forge a great new government, where peace with the Republic would be possible. We could coexist, and they're too busy throwing themselves at their perceived enemies and each other to see it."
"Such passion! Such strength in your words! How could any of them not be swayed to your cause?"
"Because to them I am a heretic of the worst sort. A follower of the light, while they wallow in darkness. I have crawled my way to power, I became a member of the Dark Council, and all while hiding my true beliefs in hopes of changing the Empire from the inside. I doubt my goal will be completed in my lifetime. It might not be possible at all."
"You're still trying."
"Everyone needs a hobby."
She smiled at that. "I could show you my hobby…"
He knew what she was implying; sensing emotions had nothing to do with it. The girl was much more grown up than Louise, and appeared to have reached physical maturity, unlike most of her classmates. Despite that, her mind still radiated emotions as an adolescent's did, and he wasn't one to take advantage of young minds. Other Sith fell prey to those passions, but Imperius prided himself on his control.
"I'm afraid I have quite a bit more stargazing to do tonight. I also need my rest, and you should get yours too. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a big day."
"I never got your name my handsome demon."
"As I told Louise, I gave it up when I took the title of Darth. I am Darth Imperius now."
"And I am Kirche Von Zirbst. I am known as Kirche the Ardent."
"That I do not doubt in the slightest. Pleasant dreams Kirche the Ardent."
"Perhaps I will dream of you, Darth Imperius." Her parting remark left one of his eyes twitching, but he quickly got it under control. That girl would be trouble; he didn't even need the Force to sense it.
His eyes returned to the sky and its two moons. Sitting beneath the stars, he began his meditations. Sith meditation did not consist of sitting on the ground thinking calm thoughts, for that was the purview of Jedi. No, Sith did what Sith always do, they fought. Against enemies, time, complacency, random trees, whatever. Imperius' version of this was to run through the few swordsmanship techniques he had taught himself at the academy on Korriban before he learned to reliably summon lightning to smite his foes. A few basic forms that were enough to slaughter the beasts in the first tomb, if nothing else. He pulled the lightsaber from his belt and activated it, its silver-blue glow perfectly matching the hue of his robes. He entered into the first form, and as he did something glorious happened.
Power rushed into him from the runes in his hand, not the power of the Force, but the not-Force of the mages who had summoned him here. He twirled his lightsaber in a flourish that previously would have ended with him missing a limb. He knew how to wield his blade, knew it like it was an extension of himself, like the Warriors of the academy knew lightsaber combat. He dropped the blade in shock, and with the fall of the lightsaber, so fled his knowledge and the unexpected strength that came with it.
He stared at the inert lightsaber on the ground, then at his hand, then the saber again. As he picked it up, the not-Force flooded into him again and knowledge once more filled his mind.
"How very strange. Perhaps this was all worth it after all." Sith often focused on lightsaber combat or Force combat. Very few ever mastered both, and he had been handed a second set of skills he'd never hoped to achieve. If he could return to the Empire with this power, he'd be unstoppable. If he could convince this world to join his cause, he could drag the Empire kicking and screaming into his future, and they would be hopeless to stop him.
That night, Louise dreamed of her servant. He did not wear the ornate armored robes he did when she summoned him, but instead wore a simple hooded tunic, black trousers, and boots that looked like they had seen better days. All in all, she would have guessed him a plebian if it weren't for his demonic features. Did demons even have plebians?
"My lord, today's accounts." Her servant said to the man standing across from him. A human male, unlike her servant, but with eyes shot through with burst blood vessels, and eyes practically glowing a baleful red. All in all this man her servant called Lord was a much more malevolent presence. Her servant didn't seem quite so terrifying in comparison.
"You are dismissed, slave." She winced, she hadn't known. Though now she understood her familiar's reaction to the familiar contract when he believed it to be slavery. No wonder he didn't want to be a slave, he'd been one before.
Her familiar bowed, and left the room. Louise, in her ethereal dream form, followed him. The man who would one day be called Imperius left the main estate making his way to what were the slave barracks off to the side of the main manor. It was dark out, but there were what appeared to be mage lights lining the path. As they approached the barracks, Louise realized that something was wrong, and her familiar seemed to realize it too. The door appeared to be a sliding model Louise hadn't seen before, or at least one so animated to automatically close itself. The door would attempt to close, knock against something in its path, then open again only to repeat the sequence. Louise watched her familiar approach, feeling his dread at what he might find inside, and matching that dread with her own.
Her familiar pressed a button on the side of the door frame, and the door ceased its attempts at closing. Looking down, she was horrified to see what it was that had kept the door open. It was a severed arm, the hand clutching a short metal pole. Something clattered inside; drawing the attention of both Louise and her familiar, and a low rumble caused her to back away. Her familiar on the other hand, picked up the metal rod that had done absolutely nothing for its previous owner, and went inside.
Was he insane? What kind of lunatic goes into a building like that? Even she knew that one does not go alone into that kind of situation unless one sought death. Remembering that this was a dream however, she followed her idiotic familiar into the dark. Going room by room, it soon became clear what her familiar was doing, he was looking for survivors. There were none to be found; only the mangled bodies of what she could only assume were his fellow slaves. Every room they passed she could feel her familiar's mounting sorrow, his desperation to find someone, anyone alive.
As they moved deeper into the barracks, she began to notice the telltale signs that they were not alone. The occasional clatter in rooms they hadn't visited yet and the more frequent sound of… something. As she got closer she recognized it for what it was. It was the same sound her mother's manticore made while eating. For the first time Louise realized what happened. Some horrible creature had broken in and eaten everyone here. Suddenly, there was another sound. It was not the nearby sounds of some beast, but the very distinct sound a child's fear.
She looked at her familiar, who had completely abandoned caution at this point. He ran towards the cries of a survivor, and Louise followed. When they arrived at what appeared to be the deepest part of the building, she was greeted by a horrific site. The beast was larger than she ever expected, resembling the Hell Hounds of myth, its bluish fur and horns just as terrifying as its glowing yellow eyes. It had cornered a small child in this room, no older than six years at most, preparing to feast anew.
She was surprised when her familiar charged without heed and tackled a beast nearly twice his own size. Despite her familiar shouting for the small boy to run, the child remained rooted in place. The great beast thrashed, and her familiar was thrown off, into the wall next to the child, where he slumped. His weapon flew to the other side of the room. The beast approached, seemingly overjoyed at this added morsel, when her familiar opened his eyes. They weren't the yellow she was used to, and instead glowed the terrifying red of the Lord he served.
"You won't take him! You won't!" Her familiar boomed, the rage in his voice echoing throughout the room. The beast opened its own mouth and responded in kind with its own roar, and charged them both. Her familiar, now bereft of his one weapon, instead raised his hands. Electricity arced between his fingers, burning his own flesh. With one last yell, the lightning arced towards the beast, causing it to falter and scream in pain.
The lightning continued to flow, her familiar rising to his feet and approaching the murderer of his fellows. Every time the beast made to rise again, he would blast it with more lightning, injuring himself every time he did so. Finally, the beast no longer attempted to rise. The smell of burnt flesh hung heavy in the air, both that of the beast and her own familiar's hands, and her familiar turned to the boy he had saved. He cowered in fear, just as afraid of her familiar as he was of the beast. It took several minutes to calm him, but eventually her familiar managed it. As her familiar left the tomb this place had become with the boy in his arms, Louise realized that this had to have been the first time he used his magic. He was some kind of demon Noble, and this must have been how he discovered it. It wasn't unheard of for some commoner to discover that there had been noble blood in their history; a commoner ascending to the petty nobility was of course something that had happened before, even if it was extremely rare. Perhaps the demons had a similar system.
This was the first time Louise dreamed of her familiar's past. It would not be the last.