"I suspected as much." replied the yolin walking over to Kennar's side while studying the demon's remains. "Such is to be expected with novice magic users. Fortunately in your case, you had enough powerful magic available to destroy the demon in his weakened state."
The yolin shook his head in disappointment at the demons remains before commenting, "He thought he was clever with that pact of his."
Looking to Kennar the yolin said, "Remember that even a clever and powerful being can be undone by their own power."
"Or their own stupidity," Kennar says in an ironic voice. "I let him trick me into taking his place. Apparently the blind pursuit of power can harm as much as it can grant strength."
Kennar muses on his last statement as it sinks in. "Another lesson?" he asks the Yolin. "You taught me that the power was the ultimate goal of black mana. But you never warned me of the danger of rushing blindly headlong into that pursuit. Was this demon a demonstration of what can happen if you are too eager to seize as much power as you can as fast as you can?"
The yolin grinned widely as he stated, "Power that cannot be secured is not true power. That which you cannot sustain will fail. Thus the power you may gain at one moment but do not fully control is not true power. Such pursuit of power is faulty as you are left weaker for the effort."
The yolin gestured to the deep gashes in Kennar's stone skin at the mention of being left weaker.
Continuing he said, "Power at any cost is the core principle that I told you to focus on. Doing so will eventually give you all you need from black mana. Doing so without understanding the pursuit will leave you weaker and victim to others."
Gesturing to the demon the yolin explained again. "No matter how much power you gain, ultimately it is all useless if you fail to hold onto it. Losing any power at all makes the cost paid a waste."
The yolin paused for a moment considering Kennar before saying, "That core principle of black mana will spawn countless personal philosophies if you let it. Keep the principle simple and think your actions through. That's what these lessons will teach you."
Turning away from Kennar and looking down the hallway, the yolin asked, "Are you ready to learn the next lessons?"
Kennar looks at his scarred skin pensively. "Power is the goal. But the easiest paths, those that lead to any power you can grasp through bargains and deals, are not desirable. Such as demonic pacts. Their power is fickle, not permanent, and therefore not true power."
Kennar nods to the Yolin. "I am ready for the next lessons."
As Kennar cautiously proceeds forward he begins to notice a subtle change in the stone pattern of the crypt. Here the stones were becoming duller until at one point the entire hallway was supported by only black dull versions that pushed back the light. He continued on in this strange hallway until he came to the mouth opening up into another room.
This room like the hallway was styled in the same dull black stone. Every twenty feet hanging on the walls were lone torches flanked by feminine stone figures curled around black columns extending to the roof.
The occasional flicker of Kennar's flames told him that there was a draft coming from somewhere deeper in the room. From his entrance he could see there was one ajar double wooden door, also flanked by the single torches on the columns.
Kennar slowly approaches, trying to be as silent as possible.
Vampires. Would he even recognize them if he saw them? All he knew was they were humanoid in shape. In Kennar's experience, that was a rather fluid term.
As he quietly approaches the door, he decides to peek inside before brazenly entering. The demon had shown him the need to be cautious, though not afraid. If he could assess the situation before venturing in, he would have the advantage.
As Kennar tilts his head to peek inside, he hears a gust of wind behind him followed by pain from his neck and shoulders. An echo of female laughter can faintly be heard inside the room. Turning around only reveals the same scene as before:
Stone columns every twenty feet, flanked by stone women with a single torch flickering in the center...
The torch light floods through the open door revealing a black coffin gilded with gold reflecting a beautiful sheen. Surrounding the coffin were piles of skeletons in clothes along with a fresh corpse, dead no more than three days. The fresh corpse however looked as though all water had been drained out of it.
While his back was turned, he heard another sound of passing wind followed by the pain in his neck and the echoing laughter of a woman. Looking back into the room with the pillars revealed nothing new to Kennar, just the stone women flanking each pillar.
Kennar grits his teeth, cotrolling his rage at the sneak attacks. "I am not here for a fight," the flamekin says calmly and with absolute confidence. "But continue striking me, and I will fill this hallway with fire."
As Kennar speaks, he draws on a meager portion of his mana, not even enough to warrant concentration. But instead of his red mana, he reaches into the blackness of his new inner flame, gently coaxing it to respond to his will. He brings it to his eyes, hoping to discern any magical auras on the statues of the women.
A purple blur flows from one of the statues past his vision leaving a faint trail that lead to his back. From there he heard a hypnotic feminine voice whisper, "What brings you to my master's territory?"
Resisting the urge to either jump five feet in the air in shock or spin around and strike out, Kennar keeps his voice calm and pleasant. Without turning, Kennar says "A quest. A quest for power. Knowledge. Magic. Things I'm guessing your master is familiar with. Perhaps I might speak with him, if he is in an agreeable mood?"
Kennar noticed how much her fangs stuck out as she gave him a smile that reminded him of a fox with a hen in it's sights. She spoke in a seductive tone as she rested her hand on his neck where she had bitten him saying, "My master can always be put in an amiable mood provided the right circumstances are met..."
"Right circumstances," Kennar says skeptically. Looking at the woman with a stern expression, Kennar politely says "Please remove your hand and take me to your master. I do not wish to fight, but I will defend myself if necessary. Continue harassing me and playing your games, and I will make good on my earlier warning."
Kennar studies the vampire for a moment. How best to manipulate the situation, in order to preserve his strength against further attack or having to give anything precious as a tribute. After half a minute, Kennar decides to take a small shot in the dark, hoping it works. "You struck me several times in the neck. Surely the energy you took, blood or otherwise, counts as such a tribute?"