After saying this, around the table, everyone can see that both the Great Magus and the Archbishop are really scared. They are not joking, the oldest and most powerful threat of the civilized races has made its return. Even if the mayor is perturbed, it is nothing compared to the habitually calm dwarf. The proud Lansco is clearly panicking. The others were born after the Portal War, but he had encountered the betrayal and the fear caused by the ratmen. Legions of them, leaving the sewers, roaming in the tunnels, and submerging the underground at a single order of their Clan Masters. Diseases spread across the world, poison inside the water. Even the sacred forest of the elf was not spared. Half of the trees died and some of the oldest treants, blessed by the Spirit of Nature, had succumbed to their dark sorceries.
For the dwarf, their ancient halls and most secure tunnels were invaded, waves after waves, by a seemingly infinite army. The underground lakes and all their source of foods were tainted by the spells of the ratmen. The aftermath of the hunt had taken decades to be repaired. If the Hero didn't manage to kill the Demon King and hunt the Clan Masters, the whole world of Astria would have ruled by them.
But, even after all the proofs were brought before his very eyes, proofs that the ratmen were exterminated, he never believed it. None of the dwarves or elves believed it. Most of the human have forgotten this race, destroy any evidence that could be seen by the commoners that they even existed. But the people in charge of the kingdom, all the powerful and wealthy ones, are informed of the existence of an unknown threat. And, the potential return of it. Of course, most of them took it lightly, like the mayor Graeme Sorrel Tyne. As a noble, he was informed of the existence of the ratmen but took it as a legend, something used to scare the people into submission. For him, they were truly decimated and none of them are alive. But after he sees the gloomy faces of Mathews and Aesseryn, and most importantly the panicking Lansco, he thinks that the kingdom was really misinformed.
"Gentlemen, milady, what do you all know about the ratmen? Spare no information, even the most miscellaneous one. You are clearly more informed than me but as a mayor and for the sake of my citizens I have to know everything."
After saying this, the archbishop starts talking.
"This, this calamity we call ratmen was here before the human even appears. From the record, they were even born before the old races like the undead, the dwarf and the elf, am I right master dwarf?"
Lansco slowly nods at his words. But he adds something before Mathews keeps talking.
"Actually, we suspect it. Because of their technologies and sciences, but the real proof of their presence is only dozens of years before the Portal War."
After that interaction, the man from the Church speaks once again.
"They have a very structural society, ruled by the Clan Masters. The treacherous and backstabbing mentality means that infightings are commons. If there is a day with less than a thousand dead, it is a peaceful day. Under the Clan Master, there is the warriors and casters. Under it, the common ratmen and the worst of the worst are the slaves. They use a swarm tactic to overcome their enemies, throwing bodies after bodies till the attack succeed. If it was only that, the strong walls of our different countries would be enough to protect us. But the ratmen are inherently proficient with both poisons and diseases. Even the lowliest slave, if he bites a human, can kill him. That means, a single wound can weaken the best soldier and with their type of attack, thousand wounds stack quickly on the bodies of our soldiers."
The archbishop paused a little, before continuing his grim description.
"The higher class the ratman is, the higher the potency of his poison. Even if in one versus one, a rat warrior is weaker than a human warrior or a dwarf, for example, he doesn't need to fight with honor. A rat warrior is never alone, he will throw slaves at you, waiting for you to be injured and then hit. And after you are hit once, your death is certain. Even if you kill the ratman, his poison is in your blood and only the most powerful prayers and spells can save you. From what I have read, even myself am not sure if I could cure the poison of the most powerful rat warrior."
Silence followed this sentence. The face of Lansco was darker with every minute spent listening to the archbishop. The mayor began to realize his own stupidity, thinking that the problem could have been quickly resolved. The Great Magus, seeing her partner not continuing his speech, shares her information.
"The problems are, those dark news are the uncovered threats. The two most important parts of their war power are the renown assassins and the spellcasters. The reason no one truly believed that we eradicated the ratmen are the impossibility to find the assassins after the fall of the Rat Empire. Not a single country or race has claimed the murder of the true assassins. They just vanished. The Hero was even ambushed and nearly killed. Of the bodies that we discovered after this attack, we could only find some basic assassins. Not a single one of the Green Claws, as the coalition called them, was ever found."
Aesseryn keeps telling more terrible things, only witnessing the pale faces of the three other participants.
"And finally, their mages. What can we do against beings that are capable of slaughtering an entire city, from afar, just by spreading winds of malevolent power? Fortunately, for those dark rituals, a huge power was needed. A sacrifice of numerous ratmen and monster cores. It is this power that has alienated all the races against the ratmen. Because, they were hunting undead, trolls and all the dark races for their cores. But even without the power of a ritual, armies were slowly dying while walking toward the ratmen. Only the strongest could survive and if it wasn't the whole world, we couldn't have won."
"You forget the most important."
Everyone looks at Lansco after he says this five words. In their minds, what could be more important than the assassins or the dark shamans?
"You forget the other reason for the core hunts. You forget their terrible weapons, sustained by the life force, by the monster cores. You forget the despair that they provoked when the five thousand Iron Beards were killed because of their devilish machines. You forget their terrible mutations, inflicted on their own race, creating monsters that shouldn't be allowed to live. You forget their cruelty, while exploding their own clan just to kill the enemy. You forget to say that after only a decade of hunting, the human stopped their actions and said that the ratmen was exterminated."
The rage and hate that was contained in his speech were clearly seen by the three others. None of them said anything about the disrespectful tongue that he used while talking to them. They could have been instructed about the ratmen or looked in the books for more information. But he was the only one that had to fight against them.
"Are you sure, it is the act of a ratman? Can no doubt be cast on that?"
The mayor was asking this because if it was true, he would need to report that to his king. A potential disaster like he just heard, if it happens to his city, he is not prepared. The city guard are a mockery of an army, they never had to fight. He can only count on the adventurers but if they hear the real reason, they will all flee.
"Sigh, based on both the Church expertise and my Mage Tower, there no possibility that a ratman isn't involved in this. Maybe it is not a real rat mage and just one in training, I don't know. But the pieces of evidence are inimitable."
"So what should I do? Order a lockdown as a mayor? Warn the population to not drink water? What am I supposed to do?"
These questions were without answers. A lockdown will scare both the people living in Ronta and the ratman. He will be more prudent and the chances of catching him will be reduced. Preventing the water to be consumed is even more foolish. How was he supposed to do that, a human need to drink?
"For the water, I, Aesseryn, have a solution. The poison used in the orphanage is already countered by some of the basic treatment created by the alchemist. Since it is the most basic, I can convince the chief of the local alchemists to give it to you for free. That way you can prevent the contamination of the water tank. Of course, the water will have a bad taste, but between dying and drinking water that has a weird taste, I choose the latter."
"Thank you very much, Great Magus, I will definitely say this in my letter to the king. But even if we can prevent any more death, how can we catch that damn monster?"
Unfortunately for him, while a mass poisoning can be avoided, the track and the hunt of a dangerous mage is not something that any of the four can achieve. Even after hours and hours of discussion and planning, the real threat was not erased. They all said that they will warn their peoples and press them to search around Ronta the ratman, but none of them had any real hope. Shortly after, everyone returned to their home, a lot more worried than when they left it.
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