The area that Sombra and I entered into when I passed through the door leading into the mansion was a massive foyer over a dozen meters tall and over two dozen meters long. At the center of the foyer stood a statue of a creature unlike any I had ever seen.
The statue was of a person. I could tell, largely because of the humanoid frame of the statue. It possessed two arms, two legs, a human-like head, and a basic stomach. The rest of it was... odd.
The statue's head had long, ruby-colored horns. There was a long tail that ended in a deadly looking stinger protruding from the creature's back. It had a set of draconic wings that were exquisitely crafted and matched the color of the thing's horns. I studied it for a moment until Sombra spoke.
"Morthos." It said, breathlessly. There was a touch of awe in its voice, an emotion I hadn't really heard it articulate until now.
"Althos, that statue is a depiction of the demon-lord known as the 'Silver-tongued destroyer.'. He brought doom to a thousand worlds just by speaking. Morthos." The demon told me, sounding genuinely inspired by the creature. I chuckled at the amazement audible in the demon's voice. And then I paused to consider the creature's reputation.
"He 'brought doom to a thousand worlds'?" I asked myself, curious about that. It was a fierce reputation to be sure, but I thought it was odd because he was also apparently the creature who ordered the city of Aronms to be built in the first place.
[The title is accurate. Morthos enjoyed creating destructive societies, especially ones that were destined not only to destroy their neighbors but also themselves. Dark elves were among his favored servants for this very reason. Dark elves in thousands of worlds, including ones that they weren't able to destroy before the end of the mythic age, served and worshipped him.] The system explained.
"I see..." I replied, wondering how many thousands, if not millions of servants he must have had throughout this universe. I didn't doubt that the number was immense if he somehow brought doom to over a thousand worlds. And that wasn't the only thing I was curious about either.
"What happened to the worlds that he 'brought doom to'?" I asked the system, curious to hear what fate befell the worlds he was apparently responsible for ruining.
[Well... If you're really curious I'll go ahead and tell you that one of the worlds he ruined is located in the solar system, the chain of planets that orbit a sun, that you inhabit. I won't tell you what's happened to it since then though. You'll have to investigate that yourself.] The system told me, giving me more of a reason to uncover the secrets behind interstellar travel. I grinned internally and finished my visual exploration of the statue in front of me.
This odd foyer wasn't uninhabited. Dark elves of all sorts wandered it, and before I went anywhere else I laid my eyes on them.
The dark elves here were elegant individuals. No matter their gender they were tall individuals, standing in the range of two and a half meters at the lowest to over four meters tall at the tallest. The difference between their shortest and their tallest members was an impressive sight.
The clothing that adorned their bodies were skin-tight things that were covered in three different motifs that I noticed. One of the motifs were animal imagery.
Their helmets were clad in the imagery of stylized bats, worms, and a few other animals like badgers and armadillos. I wasn't sure how I knew the names of the animal types, but at this point, I was ready to chalk it up the domains and their influence on me.
Another motif was that of the dark elves themselves. Some of the breastplates that guarded the dark elves' thin bodies were covered in artistically etched envisionings of dark elves. It would have been difficult for someone else to notice as the armor was dark and in the dark. I couldn't imagine another surface dweller's eyes easily peering through the darkness so to see what I had noticed.
The final motif was an odd one. There was a consistent theme of tiny, monstrous creatures covering the armor that protected the extremities of the dark elves. They wore arm guards and greaves that were covered in depictions of creatures that were a cross between humanoids and monsters. I looked at them intently for several seconds, having never seen anything like them.
"Althos you're looking at depictions of corporeal demons. Corporeal demons are monstrous creatures with equally monstrous powers. And they form the majority of demons. Sombra and other incorporeal demons are a minority." The domain of knowledge revealed, educating me gently.
After hearing that I nodded, appreciating the information, and finally readying myself to mentally scan the inhabitants of the mansion. I had come here to at least lay eyes on the historians who apparently had some influence over the people of Aronms, and it was time for me to focus on them.
I closed my eyes and allowed my not-so-mini-map to fill my vision. The thing instantly consumed what I could see, and inside of the building it was powerful enough that I could see who all was inside along with me. I quickly applied filters to the map so that I could focus on a specific group: the aforementioned historians.
Countless dark elven outlines lost their color, and after a second only two in the building retained their vibrancy. They were blue, the color that the system had long ago meant neutrality on both the mini and not-so-mini maps. They were located above me, almost directly on top of me in this strange mansion.
Out of curiosity I quickly unapplied the filters and allowed my eyes to explore both the interior of the mansion and the rest of the city. There were a handful of red outlines, indicating a group that was just hostile towards me, and a small number of green outlines.
I tapped on one of the red outlines, just out of curiosity to gain a bit of insight into who my enemies were. I heard the familiar voice of the automated system begin to speak into my mind, ready to educate me as to the status of my foes.
"The selected enemy is Duliha Ardror. The Ardor family is a family of well-known slavers in the city. As things stand they oppose anyone who opposes slavery, and thus they are your enemies. Duliha herself is a powerful berserker, a potent warrior whose rage fuels her. She's a minor daughter of the family, who serves Lady Dilva, a noble in a noble house." The voice explained, letting me that because of my desires I had at least one enemy household. I swiftly turned my attention elsewhere.
The green outlines marked people in need of assistance, who had a quest I could opt to fulfill if I felt inclined to do so. I tapped on one of them and waited the brief second it took for the system's automated voice to once again fill my ears.
"The selected quest-giving figure is named Simer Darkheart. Simer is a beastmaster, but he has a problem: the arena results in the deaths of too many evolved creatures. Evolved creatures are a rarity, as only gods and a handful of other higher-beings can bless creatures to the point that they evolve. Simer needs assistance in acquiring more evolved creatures." The system announced.
This intrigued me. It felt like an easy enough quest, and it came with the implication that through it I'd gain a greater understanding of how helping creatures evolve worked. I made a mental note to check in with Simer before I left. I wanted to fulfill that quest.
I tapped on another green outline on the map that encompassed my vision. This one was located near the edge of the city, a healthy distance away from me. The system's voice filled my ears once more.
"The selected quest-giving figure is named Dumme Runeshatter. Dumme's career revolves around the expansion of the city. A few weeks ago a demon attack left his last dire badger died in a demon attack. Dumme now has two problems: he needs help figuring out who launched the attack, and he needs a new stable of animals that can dig through stone to create new tunnels." My automated companion revealed, informing me as to another quest.
This was another intriguing quest, and as I readied myself to go to where the historians were located I figured I'd be able to drop by Dumme's current location before I left Aronms today. With that, I refocused on my objective: at least seeing the historians at work. Sombra and I went directly overhead, phasing into the ceiling that separated us from other floors with ease.
We had to pass through two floors onyx colored things made from sinisterly shadowy stone, both decorated with statues of Morthos and other demonic artwork and populated by dark elves flitting to and fro before we made it to where the historians were located. And as it turned out, we found ourselves in the midst of a conspiratorial meeting.
The chamber two floors higher than the entrance that we found ourselves in wasn't a particularly lavish one. I had expected it to be much gaudier than it was. It was a decently sized chamber, the centerpiece of which was a large table crafted from some white substance that provided the chamber with a sort of natural, ambient lighting that didn't rely on something that could be put out like a torch.
The table was rounded by nine chairs, thick, egg-shaped things that protected anyone in them from literal backstabs, at the cost of preventing them from seeing who approached them from behind without leaving their safe outer shells. Of the nine seats, only two were inhabited at this time.
One of the figures seated in an egg-shaped seat was a male dark elf. I took a chance to study him. He stood shorter than most dark elves, standing at about two meters tall. He was muscular though, and his face was covered in long-since healed scars.
The well-built dark elf had armor covered in dark elves on his body. He wore a heavier looking suit than the other elves did as well. His armor actually looked like armor and not like clothing. He had entirely white orbs for eyes, and they seemed to almost radiate power.
I studied him to see if he radiated a magical aura, but after a few seconds, I concluded that he didn't. It was a bit surprising to see that he failed to radiate any particular color, and almost a bit disappointing. But what it suggested wasn't something I missed: this man's power was probably martial, which was impressive in and of itself.
The other seated individual was a female dark elf. She wore skin-tight clothing as the other elves did. I had an intuitive sense that the clothing she wore would protect her, but upon close inspection of her and her armor, I realized that it was because the armor she wore radiated some sort of magic. It was difficult to tell what sort of magic the armor radiated though because the woman herself radiated a thick miasma of yellow-tinted magic.
She was tall, and even sitting down she was close to two meters high suggesting her height was close to four meters when she stood up. Her hair was a mixture of gold and white, and her eyes were golden orbs, something which suggested she wasn't any ordinary dark elf.
"Listen I'm telling you we may need to ready... a plan to deal with the D'Rorce family. They are a thorn in my side." She said, her voice starting off fairly high but dropping a good deal when she said the words 'thorn in my side', so much so that the final word was little more than a growl.
Anger flashed in her golden eyes. She studied her companion, who seemed to be paying her little mind. This evidently angered the dark elf, because her eyes narrowed and a burst of yellow energy shot out of her and was clearly aimed at her companion.
Thanks to my high-speed reflexes I noticed the energy escape her body and had time to react to it before it got anywhere close to her target. For a moment I wished I had the ability to identify magic at a glance, so that I could determine what she had just done. And that was when I got a handy message from the system itself.
[Would you like to make that a new power? Because we can design it... All you've got to do is ask us too.] The system reminded me, harkening back to the one time I had had a new power designed for me, my potent "Stone prison" power.
"Oh absolutely. Can you let me identify spells at a glance?" I asked, and I felt the system do its own version of a nod. That brought a grin to my face. I focused to the extent that time itself almost seemed to stand still as I waited for the next message indicating that I had received a new power.
The yellow energy hung almost motionlessly in the air. I stared at it, curious as to what the elf was planning. That said, I could do a lot here and I wouldn't act until I had more information, so I opted to take this chance to appraise the golden-eyed dark elf. Which was when I learned that she was more than met the eye.