[A demonic existence can be reduced to a single need: obsession. There are many forms that this d.e.s.i.r.e can take, almost innumerable, but every demon feels it. Provided we are given the freedom to pursue this obsession, we are largely content. Though this does not mean we are peaceful. A slaughter demon has but one d.e.s.i.r.e, and it will seek to fulfill that d.e.s.i.r.e always.]
[So… if a demon is going around killing other demons in Roklu, you just… let it go about its business? That hardly seems like it would be conducive to allowing other demons to 'freely pursue their obsession'.]
[As with anything to do with demons, there are no hard and fast rules. A demon of murder killing others is to be expected, it is its nature, so it is not punished for such. Kill too much, and the demon in question could be exiled, sent across the plains to find another city.]
[Not killed? You guys don't kill as a punishment here in Roklu?]
Judging from what little I saw of Grokus' compound, they definitely do.
[We do, but it is generally the city lord who would enact such a thing. It is the right and the responsibility of the strongest demon in the city to enforce their will on it. Those who do not appreciate this burden are free to leave, either to find another city more to their liking, or eke out an existence on the plains.]
[How do you think Grokus has been doing here?]
[I have answered your question,] the blazing eye turns toward me, focusing the full heat of its gaze upon my shiny self. [It is now time for you to answer mine.]
[Fair enough,] I gesture with an antenna, [go ahead.]
The demon, who we've come to know, actually has a name, as do most demons who live in the city, apparently. I was a little surprised at first when he introduced himself, but hey, if a demon wants a name, who am I to go about not using it? So it was that the giant eye wreathed in tongues of flame that hovered around us came to be referred to by his proper title: Allocrix. Or Al, depending on your mood.
[You have mentioned this 'Colony' before. Describe it to me. I wish to know more of it.]
[The Colony? I suppose that's fine. I guess I should ask first off, how much do you know about ants?]
The eye roars with flame.
[Alright then, I suppose I start at the beginning.]
We continue our somewhat bizarre stroll around the plate city of demons, Roklu, whilst I expound on the ants of the surface world. Tiny insects capable of forming vast mega-colonies, a collective so unified as to act as a single organism as the eyeball in the centre of the aurora borealis listens with childlike fascination.
[You have two stomachs?]
[Social stomach and a regular one,] I confirm, [that way some of our food can be regurgitated later for sharing purposes.]
[Alright, that's a lot for one question, obviously you want to know more, but I think it's my turn, surely?]
By this time we've made our way toward the edge of the plate and I have to say, the view is rather striking. The vast emptiness vanishes into the distance, well beyond the point my eyes can see as the heat haze and ash eventually blocks my view. Far, far below, the Plains of Leng, even now a writhing carpet of weaker demons locked in eternal combat, the flats pierced here and there with pillars of rock, mountains with sharp cliffs and flat tops. It's mesmerising in its own way. I can't believe this vast field circles the entire world.
The chaos of Roklu has continued around us, as more demons emerge and begin to resume their normal activities the noise and movement has steadily risen back to what I presume is a more normal level.
[Can you explain what the deal was with that giant demon smacking someone down in the middle of town earlier? Something seemed a little off about it, and you were in that area also…]
I'm quite curious about that incident. The fact that there were two tier seven monsters in that spot, when they seem quite rare in the city from what I've seen. In fact, as far as I can tell, there's three.
[That situation… frustrating.] Al falls silent for a moment as he contemplates his response. After a few moments he speaks up again. [Demon politics can be simple or complicated, depending on the particular demons involved. When it comes to demon politics, there is only one issue that is fought over, who will be the city lord.]
[I'm going to guess, the strongest demon?]
[Generally, it is so. Simplistic. Grokus has ruled over this city for hundreds of years, generally by exterminating any who would grow strong enough to challenge. Now, two demons who are strong enough to mount a challenge have arisen in short succession.]
[I'll jump in and say, you and the big guy?]
[It is so.]
[Pretty darn obvious, isn't it? You three are the only tier seven monsters that I've managed to detect in the city.]
[That's fair enough,] I sigh. [So there are two challengers for the throne? As it were?]
[In a sense,] the fire dims around the Avarice demon as he sinks down toward the floor, seemingly depressed. [I have no wish for the role. The scheming, the fighting. Nuisance. I wish only to pursue and hoard knowledge, that is my d.e.s.i.r.e. Mongu'nin does not share my indifference.]
[The big guy?]
[It is so. He actively wishes to challenge Grokus for the position of city lord, but feels he must dispense with me, the other challenger, before he can make his claim.]
[Wait, so he wants to challenge, but won't until he's managed to … what… kill you first?]
[Then he'll go and challenge Grokus, and I'm going to assume that this challenge is a fight to the death.]
[It is so.]
[You demons sure don't mess around.]
[As I said, simple, yet complicated. I have been hiding from Mongu'nin for weeks, just as I have hidden from Grokus and his minions, but the constant attempts to track me down have become… tiresome.]
I give Al a bit of side-eye, which isn't hard given the nature of my compound eyes.
[In other words, you wouldn't necessarily be averse to the city coming under new management?]
The eye narrows.
[I would not…]
[More on that later. So, what you're saying is, the big guy, Mongo, is trying to find and kill you, so that he feels justified in going and killing Grokus. Meanwhile, Grokus probably wants the pair of you killed, and is not shy about attempting to make that happen.]
[This is the case.]
[Is it safe for you to be wandering around town with us then?]
Sounds like all the powerful demons in Roklu want Al dead, so I'm surprised he's so comfortable wandering around the city with us.
[In this instance, I am counting on you and your twenty-three companions to dissuade the others from making any moves that might be considered… too bold.]
I suppose that's fair enough. I'm a little shocked that Al was able to penetrate the incredible abilities of my bodyguards to stay unnoticed. However he did that, I'm impressed.
Wait a second… twenty three?!
I rapidly turn to better focus on Tiny and the big ape looks back at me with confusion written plain on his face.
[Tiny! Where's the hatchling!?] I yell, panic creeping into my mental voice.
He looks at me, looks down at his empty hands for a long moment, then back at me. Very slowly, with great care, he lifts his feet and carefully inspects the soles.
[You didn't stand on her you thick shake! She snuck off!]
Because of course she did!