"Why are you just standing there and where is your uniform?! You are here to serve the demon king and we can't have someone incompetent like you, get moving!"
I must admit, I froze. Could he truly not recognize me? I, the great Demon King? The Scourge of the Darklands? The Terror of the Forty Lakes? The - well, now that I think of it, I really haven't been getting out much. Running a kingdom is hard work, but building a world-spanning empire is straight-up brutal. I may have missed a meeting or two when they introduced some of the lower-ranked generals...
The general was staring at me in growing... panic? Maybe he did recognize me. After all, I do have quite the striking physique, and-
"YOUR UNIFORM! Egads, soldier, do you not understand our lives are on the line? Go! Run! Get in uniform! The Great Demon King's Right-Hand - Man May His Footsteps Never Tread On Soil - will be here in less than an hour! And we don't even have the right bunting for... WHY AREN'T YOU RUNNING!?!"
Out of confusion and habit, I quickly turned and dashed towards the main barracks. I had started there, you know, just a basic soldier. Clawed my way up through the ranks. Huh, I hadn't thought about those days for... well, it's been a while. I should visit more often.
I reached the barracks, where three others were queued up in front of the armory. A harried-looking Lieutenant was measuring the first man. "Here, this should fit. Move!"
He handed the fellow a shining pile of armor and turned to the next man. "Missing corsage? Here! Oh, both of you? Fine, here, move! Less than an hour!"
He turned to look at me, and his eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "You... where is your armor? Where are - are those even regulation boots!? I - I can't - here! Take this, and those, and put this on-"
The man started throwing handfuls of clothing, armor, and apparently flowers at me; a moment later, I was clad head to toe in shiny, heavy, and entirely useless decorative armor, with, unbelievably, a corsage bolted to the front. Bolted! To armor! I was then whisked out with a handful of others to stand in formation with a number of other faceless troops, all wearing the same stupid armor. I really needed to get out more. Which, now that I think about it... this is. I was supposed to go to a number of other meetings, but I think at this point, I may stick around. Standing in the sun was more enjoyable than sitting through that nasty accountant Smarm Lord Deppinger's awful meetings, anyway.
As they waited, the men around me complained about the food, the boots, and the stupid armor. Standing in the boots and wearing the armor, I could only agree. This was terrible. The style was all wrong. All it did was hamper motion, reduce vision, and look absolutely wretched. "How could anyone be expected to fight in these silly things?"
There was laughter that rippled through the soldiers around me. "Fight? Son, how green are you? We ain't seen a battle in a year and a half."
These must be the reserves, then. That makes more sense, the armor is all wrong, but maybe they-
"Not since we beat the Alltrussions, anyway. Nobody left to fight. Though High Lord Death-Bringer says we may need to put down an insurrection near the capital before long. Hope so, this is boring as hell..."
Since... wait. Did we win that war? Wasn't... in the last meeting, I was sure High Lord Deppinger said the war continued and asked for more... money. Deppinger. Dep... ing... er. Death Bringer. Surely that pipsqueak wasn't...
Some heads were going to roll. I could feel my Practiced Booming Voice getting warmed up already.
A commotion near the road drew my attention. Sure enough, a carriage carrying High Lord Gonna Get Court-Martialed pulled up, and His Utter Bullcrap stepped out. That weaselly little...
"Friends, compatriots, I bring you news from the capital. The Demon King has grown ill, and a usurper has all but taken the throne! Even now, he poisons our dear leader's mind! We must travel at once, and destroy the monster before he can lay our good kingdom to waste!"
There was a murmur of disbelief. My own voice was among them. I didn't feel ill! What was the sniveling little worm going on about?
"For the sake of us all, we must retake the city! I shall rescue our beloved King, and - temporarily, of course, until our lord has regained his senses - take control of the throne. The heavy burden of that will fall upon my shoulders, of course."
Ah. Now it all makes sense. High Lord Idiot-Face had always thought he should have more power, and more troops, and had always fought the worst of the enemies. Judging by what the men here had said, he was probably just stocking up to take over. Poor fool. It was a really bad day for a coup to begin with, and now my feet hurt, too.
Now, the whole "Demon King" thing is mostly a title, but there's a bit of magic I found along the way that really helped the whole mystique. Mostly lights and sound, but then there was one spell... Hold on, this shouldn't take long.
High Lord Death-Bringer (He Of Many Names, Of Which Few Are Actually Compliments) saw, from the corner of his eye, one of the soldiers brandish a sword. "Breaking rank!? I should-"
And then the lightning struck. From a cloudless sky, a bolt of lightning slammed down on the raised sword, but instead of a boom, there was more of a... sentence.
ALL THOSE WHO ARE LOYAL TO THE DEMON KING... JOIN HIM IN GLORIOUS BATTLE!
The lightning crackled through the crowd. Armor melted and transformed; decorative banners became spears; and all those truly loyal to the Demon King suddenly found themselves clothed in burned, black armor, the function of which was obviously considered first. The helms sported smoke instead of crests; the swords glowed deep red; but importantly, the joints could move freely, the weight was reduced by half, and the crested helmets used a 180-degree mesh instead of a tiny slit. Seriously, it's like no one that designs armor has to actually wear it. It can inspire fear AND be useable! Do both!
It was immediately apparent who was fighting on the side of the Demon King, and who was not. All those on my side were wearing the fashionable yet comfortable armor of a Demon Warrior; all those who decided they would follow High Lord Damp Shoes were still clad in their fancy decorations. High Lord Needs New Pants screamed in terror, and shoved his High Guard towards the nearest Demon Warrior; all across the square, swords were drawn and the battle began. It ended quickly enough; apart from a handful of minor injuries, functional armor won the day over the gaudy stuff the High Lord Screams Like A Baby had outfitted his troops in. Though, in fairness, the shiny armor hid the fact that nearly a third of the soldiers there were Alltrussion.
I casually walked over to the High Lord, who had managed to scream himself hoarse, soil himself, slip in it, and fall out of his own carriage, neatly hooking the back of his high-waisted pants. He squeaked and kicked his stubby legs, trying to get free of what was to be the last wedgie he ever will get. I pointed my sword at his throat.
"Congratulations, High Lord Deppinger! I am hereby promoting you to the rank of... corpse!"
That dealt with, I turned to my soldiers, who had gathered in awe around the carriage. "As for you... you fought bravely. I apologize for not visiting sooner; I may have a few loose ends to tidy up back in the capital, but I intend to make a habit of visiting more often. Now, you there - yes, you, the fellow that called the Demon King 'green'. You're promoted to General. Get these men rounded up, clean the place up, burn Corpse Deppinger, my sword, and his carriage, because nothing will get THAT smell out, and let's go finish squashing a coup, shall we?"
I definitely needed to get out more. I forgot how much fun being a Demon King could be!