I must have played the scene in my head a thousand times.

The slaves appear as if by magic through the Emerald Death along the Devil’s Road.

Tattered and threadbare to the point that their Elven immortality grows thin and begins to wane, they slump toward their final doom as the mighty Chimera, long-toothed and hungry, looms over them, eager for the promised meal that they represent.

Velociryx standing at the head of the sweeping grand stair that leads up to the main gate of the city like some Death Cult High Priest, whipping his foul creation into a frenzy as the beast strains against the chains that keep it at bay…

Except that wasn’t at all the scene before me, and I found myself perplexed.

Indeed, the slaves were there, and still in their chains as promised, standing at the foot of the staircase, which was also (obviously) present, and the HighLord of the Realm himself was also there, looking Regal, and even a shade jaunty as he stood with relaxed posture at the head of the stairs.

No matter that the scene did not match my imaginings of it, I reckoned I had scant seconds before my worst fears were realized, and for that reason, burst out of my hiding spot in the jungle.

“I demand that you stop this attrocity at once!” I cried as loudly as I could manage, and I must say to you that it had the desired effect.

All activity ceased at once, and all eyes turned toward me.

There was a pregnant moment of curious silence, then Velociryx broke into a grin.

“Well you’re a plucky one, aren’t you?” He said to me. “I must say I’m pleased that you survived the storm, but beg you speak your mind quickly so we can put this business behind us and get on with the rest of what stands to be a busy day.”

I was nearly too stunned to speak, but I managed to find my voice with only a little sputtering. “I…You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Don’t want your Chimera to miss his noonday meal then? Two thousand slaves, served up fresh from the Devil’s Road?”

At this, the HighLord seemed genuinely perplexed, but he is possessed of a sharp wit, and caught my meaning quickly enough.

When he did, his reaction was not at all what I expected.

He burst out laughing and much of his assembled Court did likewise.

In fact, even many of the slaves joined in.

“Wha? You…you think I mean to serve these lot up for dinner?” He motioned to the slaves. “And who shall we feed them to, good sir?”

“The…the Chimera of course!” I cried. “I overheard you speaking of it…sitting here in your jungle stronghold, constructing magical beasts to enslave us. An army of demons!”

I didn’t think it was possible, but the collective laughter grew louder still, until surely every beast in the jungle must have heard it and been startled by its power.

For my part, it only incensed me further. “I….What is the meaning of this? I demand to know!”

Velociryx wiped his eyes, still chuckling, and motioned a man next to him forward. He was of trim build, sporting a well kept beard, and had all the bearing of a Lord of the Court.

“Finn, ” He said to this man. “Have you ever eaten an elf?”

I saw the two men exchange glances and stifle chuckles briefly before the one called Finn responded. “Nay, Lord…too stringy. Not enough meat on the lot of them to make even a single proper feast.”

Velociryx looked to me as though this settled the matter. “Well there you have it then. Where did you come by such a silly notion, anyway?”

“You said they were for the Chimera! That he had to see them in this state!”

“Indeed they were and indeed he did.” He nodded again toward the one called Finn. “Here’s your Chimera, lad…I’m not sure what you were expecting, but we’re certainly not running naked through the trees, chanting and praying to dark gods whilst we construct evil beasts, and Finn here has confessed to lacking the appetite to actually dine on our Elven friends.”

“If they be friends then why are they in chains?”

Velociryx sighed and bowed his head. “They are in chains, and in fact, I needed my Court to see them thus because it’s important that we all remember what is at stake. These noble elves could just as easily be us if we do not keep strong, and help one another….that’s what The Chimera Project is, at its core. Sacrifice by the strong to help the weak. The Chimera is a robust, magical creature born of the parts of many and made strong by it. So too do we here commit ourselves and our resources in unilimited amount to see to our Chimera. Our motto is, “Whatever the Chimera needs, the Chimera gets,” and that holds true even if we must put ourselves in harm’s way, or delay our own growth and gratification to do it. The Chimera always comes first.

“As to these slaves…I bought them in order to set them free. I don’t limit myself by thinking in terms of race or tribe…only in terms of the skills I need to make my project a success. Elves are magical, and it strikes me that we could use a stronger dose of magic than my own Court Wizards can provide, so I hit upon an idea…I would buy it.”

He made a dismissive noise. “Pfft. I have nearly as much money as the gods themselves at this point, and my cities churn out ten and a half tons of raw materials a day, most of which either goes up for sale in our various markets, or gets funneled to our hungry Chimera, so why not put the money to some good? Why not buy slaves, free them, give them their own city and put them to work for me? And that was the business we were about until you burst out of the jungle filled with wild tales about making them the first course of a meal for a monster. Are you feverish, perhaps? Do you need a Churigeon?”

No, I bloody well didn’t need a Churigeon, but I’ll tell you what I did need…a place to hide.

Suddenly, I felt quite beyond foolish, and I blushed several shades of scarlet at my gross misinterpretation of these events.

“I…forgive me, My Lord…I have wronged you greatly.”

Now the HighLord descended the steps with the one called Finn just behind him.

He clapped a big, calloused hand on my shoulder.

A commoner’s hand.

A working man’s hand, and I wondered at his past.

“You did no such thing…in fact, I’m honored by your courage. You saw a wrong…or at least thought you did, and stood up for what was right. By yourself, and with me surrounded by my entire Court, and for all you knew, a host of demons at my beck and call. That took guts, my friend.”

His next words shocked me to my core.

“I could use a man with that kind of pluck and courage, and since it seems as though Fate has returned you to me, how would you like a job? A posting in my Court?”

This time, I really was rendered speechless, but in time, I found my voice sufficiently to accept the HighLord’s offer, and that is how I went from Reporter to Castaway to Court Member to Chimera, and Lord Mayor of the town of Haven (population 1869, with 73 Elves having died on the transport ship to Devil’s Island, and another 53 dying en route to Cerilon, despite the best efforts of the guards who accompanied them), in the middle of the Emerald Death, along the Devil’s Own Road.

You might think that the story ends there, but it does not.

This merely marks the end of the beginning.

~The Blind Scribe~

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