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Months have passed since I accepted my first and only student, little Kerah. For all my foresight, this has been a disastrous mistake. I had thought to teach this girl the many great arcane secrets I had learned in my long life, but she didn't even know how to read! In addition, I had long forgotten the many small things that the living depended on to continue, well, living. It wasn't as though I could simply walk into town and purchase supplies either, and even in life I was never a farmer.

Aside from those necessities, Kerah had taken to exploring through the ruined fortress I had constructed long ago in which we were now hiding. Although I had personally constructed this place, that was over five thousand years ago, and I simply can't recall all of the traps I placed in order to stay safe for so long. Besides, the place was in ruins, so even without my traps it was dangerous.

And now, of course, some fool adventurers had heard rumors of haunted ruins not far from town and figured there would be some forgotten treasures to loot. Normally I would simply end them and move on, but Kerah had made me promise not to kill anyone after some of the braver townsfolk came up to see if their angry mob had successfully killed the girl and her mother. It occurred to me afterwards that seeing someone disintegrate was probably a traumatic experience for a child to witness, but no townsfolk returned after that. But now, adventurers. That could prove troublesome.

"Hello! Who are you?" Kerah! She must have been playing in the ruins on the surface. Turning invisible, I teleport up to the surface ready to save her - again- but wait to see how these people will handle her. Dark elves were never something I encountered during my rule, but apparently a great stigma has grown around her race. From what I can gather, that was likely the only reason that her mother was killed in the first place.

"Ohhhhhhh, kay. A creepy girl in a haunted place. This will end well." A halfing, likely a thief or assassin. He draws his daggers but remains at a safe distance from Kerah, so I simply maintain my vigil.

"Hold on Belfar, something is off about this place. It reeks of evil, but she doesn't." A paladin, or at least some holy man. He is scanning around looking for something, but doesn't seem to find whatever he's looking for. "I doubt she's connected, maybe she lives nearby."

"I live here, with my grampa." Kerah says. She insists on calling me grampa, despite my insistence that there is zero chance we are related. I have learned that some battles I must concede if I am to teach the girl anything, so unfortunately I, Maldrek the Darkener, Lord of the Wastes, Devourer of Death, am now simply "grampa."

"And is your grampa...well...alive?" the paladin asks.

"I think so. He's definitely not dead, at least. What are you looking for way up here?"

"Looking for your grampa, I suspect. We've been told that there are monsters here; that it isn't safe for little girls. You could come with us back to town-"

"No thanks, " Kerah interrupts "grampa keeps the monsters away, I'm pretty sure." Smart girl, even if that isn't really true. There's nothing but animals nearby, but if there were monsters I'd keep them far from here.

"This isn't going anywhere, Marius. Either we take her with us, leave her here, or kill her, but I didn't come all this way for rocks and ghost stories." The halfling, Belfar. I float, silently, over to Kerah, just in case.

"I vote we kill her. Dark elves are a blight." An elf, silent up until now. Maybe the racism against dark elves runs deeper in other elves. It doesn't matter either way, that was a threat, and I'll not risk harm to Kerah.

"ENOUGH"

Revealing myself has the expected reaction. Weapons drawn, arrows notched, spells ready. All equally worthless. I make sure to stand between these fools and Kerah; wouldn't want anything to stray into her. "Kerah, little one, stay behind me." I have taken to using a softer, more mortal voice with her; my normal voice sounds foolish when my authority is constantly challenged by a child.

"LEAVE THIS PLACE. I'LL NOT HAVE YOUR SMALL AMBITIONS ENDANGER THE CHILD."

"Us, endanger her? You poison her with your presence, fiend!" The paladin lunges as he speaks, and seems to freeze mid swing as my spell lands. A few arrows bounce harmlessly off of my magical protections before I manage to strike the elf blind, but with that distraction I lost track of the halfling. I reach out with my mind and discover him closing in on Kerah, behind us. Quickly, I shunt us sideways in time, giving me the precious moments I needed to stop him from doing something foolish like threatening her in exchange for his friends' lives.

Seconds to stop this group. Much longer than necessary. Maybe I can talk her out of this 'no killing' rule.

I send this group away, implanting the idea that they should never return here and should actively dissuade others from seeking it out.

"Kerah, you should really come find me before talking to strangers."

"But they didn't look that scary. I could've taken them."

"Did you expect to fight them? You REALLY shouldn't be fighting-"

"No, but if I had to fight them I coulda beat 'em. It didn't take you very long, and you're old!" I should really speak with her about interrupting.

"Kerah, just promise that next time you'll tell me that we have guests before coming up by yourself, alright?"

"Fine, grampa."

Hm. I have a distinct feeling that this is neither the last time she is going to lie to me, nor the last time that I will have to deal with adventurers.

How tedious.