Chapter 32 - Wyvern Pass Fort
"I'll report this matter to the Immortal Crusade myself," Fleeting Moment said and flew away without giving any explanations.
Waters of Yore let out a breath he hadn't noticed he had been holding.
Six days after leaving Lamia, they reached the border town located at the foot of the rocky Death's Shadow Mountains.
Wyvern Pass Fort received its name from the mountain pass it oversaw, the Wyvern Pass, one of the least dangerous routes to be found in the mountains.
The fort's architecture was a blend of Earth's medieval architecture and magic. The stone walls surrounding the fort were tall and thick, and the fort itself resembled a vertically elongated box.
Each stone was enchanted for resistance, and defensive formations were drawn on the walls and fort proper using gold.
Enchantment was nothing more than another name for formations. Mixing formations was a complex job that no one in the Valdian Family was capable of, yet that one belonged to the Valdian Kingdom. In fact, that fort had been built by the Fire Emperor himself after the family paid him ten lorels, the Lower Relic coins, the most valuable of them, for it. It had bankrupted the family and they still hadn't recovered from it even after a hundred years.
The reason for the fort location wasn't the White Republic on the other side of the Death's Shadow Mountains, but the monsters coming from the mountain itself.
Indeed, just as Aaron's group saw the fort at the distance, they also saw hundreds of small wyverns flying over it. Once in a while, one of them would try to attack the fort, but a transparent dome would materialize from the walls and repel the attack.
That was the common state of affairs in the fort, forever under siege, always being tested for weaknesses. Yet, Aaron thought the beasts looked more agitated than usual.
There were hundreds of people a bit ahead on the road, mainly merchants, with some farmers and a few mercenaries here and there.
The moment they saw Shadow One, a big commotion issued.
"The Immortal Crusade is back!"
People looked at her as if she was God incarnate. Aaron made a gesture to Mark, who inclined his head to listen to Aaron's command.
"Learn what happened," Aaron ordered.
"Yes, young master."
Mark disappeared among the crowd. Meanwhile, Shadow One ignored everyone, and no one had the guts to approach her on their own accord.
A few minutes later, Mark reappeared and reported: "Flying ships belonging to the Immortal Crusade appeared about one week ago. They killed the wyverns in the area and rebuked new attacks from bigger and more dangerous beasts. They left yesterday, and since then, the wyverns are attacking anyone who tries to enter or leave the fort. And if they get attacked, they cry for help, bringing a massive beast attack from every direction."
Aaron nodded. "Typical animal behavior. A mighty beast probably claimed the mountain range and wasn't happy with the Crusade's show of force. It now wants to make a point to us and to its subordinates, else they believe the territory lord is weak, and start having ideas about taking the territory for themselves."
"Aren't you assuming too much?" Helina asked.
Everybody looked at her. She had said almost nothing since they left Lamia, and it was a surprise for her to offer an opinion now.
"Explain," Aaron said.
"I mean..." She crossed her arms defensively. "You only received a brief report of what happened. How can you conclude there's a beast who wants to show its power to its subordinates?"
Aaron nodded. "Good question. I have great knowledge concerning animals and beasts in general, and I have studied uncountable different situations. There are other possibilities, of course, but the one I described is the most likely to be the right one."
"How old are you? Twelve? Thirteen? How can you have studied 'uncountable different situations'?" She insisted.
He was getting tired of this. "I find it amazing that in a world filled with wonders of magic and ruled by mages who can make rain fire at a whim, people can't think of time-dilation spells and formations as a possible solution to questions that plague them. You let your logic from when you were common humans define you, instead of evolving your mind together with your magic and power. I can think of three different ways a twelve-year-old like me would have lots of knowledge and behave as a human. Moreover, none of these three possibilities was what happened to me, so there are at least four different ways for it to happen. Stop being lazy with your suppositions and investigations! You're a fucking mage, start thinking like one!"
His sudden lashing was delivered in an angry, loud voice. Everyone around, including the strangers, stared at him with different expressions, going from astonishment to nods of agreement.
He sighed. "We have wyverns to kill. Let's begin."
"Young master," Mark said with a hesitant voice, "isn't it better to try to go for a different route?"
"A warrior mustn't be fearless," Aaron said, "for it will lead to his early demise. But a warrior also shouldn't retreat in defeat before even seeing his enemies." He pointed at the spectators. "If these bunch of weaklings lived to tell the tales of such magnificent attacks, including beasts surrounding anyone who approaches, this means their tales are exaggerated at the very least or fabricated lies at the most. We'll kill some wyverns and see what else comes at us. Then we will decide what to do.
"Fear is useful, but only when you don't run away at every accounting of danger you hear." He shook his head. "Those in power want you all to behave like dumb cowards, and to survive, your unconscious minds have submitted. But I need real people, with their own thoughts and some guts. Remember that."
Without further ado, he dismounted and stepped ahead.
The crowd opened a path for the conceited kid who talked like an arrogant adult, their faces betraying their dissatisfaction with his words. If he was calling his own servants dumb cowards for not wanting to attack the wyverns, didn't it mean everyone in there were the same? Who did he think he was?
Most of them would've physically assault a child who talked like that to them, but that kid was different. He was accompanying a Crusader, had an Eminence and a Champion as companions — even daring to offend them without being punished for it —, and was a Champion on his own right. Whatever was going on with that group, it was obvious way beyond those merchants and mercenaries to interfere with.
Aaron walked fearlessly between everyone, speaking loud and clear: "No one, beast or otherwise, shall stand in my way and leave unscratched!"
The formerly clear sky suddenly became heavily clouded, the clouds seemingly condensing out of nowhere, all of them heavy with water. Thunder sounded repeatedly, while a show of lightning lighted the skies and the earth below.
"Myriad Arts," Aaron said, to make clear for everyone who was the responsible for the incoming attack, "Spellcasting, Triple Elements: Water, Wind, Lightning." He made a pause as he raised his arm in the air for dramatic effect. "Seventh Lightning Storm!" He lowered the arm quickly, like the falling blade of a guillotine.
As if following the movement of his arms, lighting descended upon the wyverns from the skies. Everything happened so quickly that they had no time to even decide if they wanted to run from the forming storm or not. Thousands of lightning rays rained at them, all of them hitting the wyverns without a single miss.
It took only an instant for the wyverns to get attacked and die crying in pain and terror for the unforeseen deaths, but the storm didn't disappear. At the same time, the wyverns' bodies fell and hit the transparent dome on the fort, hundreds of lightning rays hit the sideways of the road leading to the city, stopping a few meters away from Aaron, who protected himself with magic.
It was a statement of mighty, a threat to any beasts nearby who wanted to attack him.
The lightning storm took a bit over ten seconds, but that was enough to almost blind and deafen anyone who didn't protect themselves. The wyverns corpses fell without they managing to protect themselves.
"Learn well, my butler, my maid, and my... protector," he spoke sarcastically about Helina's position in the group. "Beasts only respond to power, and power you must show. Even if you want to parley, that only comes after you prove that you are the one on top."
The speed of the coming of the clouds and the power of the lightning defied the laws of physics. For the skies to be covered like that, water had had to be created out of nowhere, and indeed, Aaron had done just that. It cost him seventy percent of his mana pool to cast that spell, mainly because of the conversion of mana to matter — which also didn't follow common laws of physics —, but it was worth it.
Especially due to giving a reminder to the Crusader that she would better wait for them to get to the White Sea before she made a move on him!
"Let's go," he said, without turning back to see if his group was following.
The moment the Champion kid before her cast the spell that controlled the weather so well, Shadow One concluded that he wasn't a demon.
She knew more than many in the weak West Region, including the theories of long-range spellcasting. She couldn't use such spells for fear of the weaklings of the West Region being enlightened by her and rising to heights they weren't supposed to, but she knew how they worked, and they required an incredible amount of control, the least of which being perfect grade 7 control.
Her knowledge also allowed her to be aware that demons simply couldn't cast long-range spells without using demonic magic. Not because they didn't have the potential to learn, but because the better the control a demon got, the more mana itself escaped it, a paradox only solvable by demonic energy. Those were the rules of the world, set by the Immortals themselves, and no Champion demon could bypass them.
The control the kid showed in the bedroom, and now the control to cast the spell he called 'Seventh Lightning Storm' were proof of him not being a demon.
And they were proof that he needed to die.
The Immortal Crusade was officially created to hunt demons, but its secondary and secret purpose was to prevent new Immortals from appearing. New Immortals were supposed to be groomed by the current Immortals from an early age, with the rules of the world adequately drilled on them, else they might rebel.
The current Fire Emperor was an example. He was the only Saint in the Fire Continent not because he was the only talented person who could achieve Sainthood, but because all other mages were told, as soon as they became Ascenders, that becoming a Saint meant certain death on the hands of the Immortal Crusade!
Sometimes though, the culling had to be done from an early age, as soon as a mage showed too much potential. This kind of people was too proud and often disregarded the warnings of the Immortal Crusade. Many a crusade had been declared because a genius became a Saint. Officially, of course, it was said that the Saint was a demon.
At first, a small part of Shadow One wanted to spare Aaron, because she had a soft spot for warriors, and he was their 'Herald of Change.'
Now, every fiber of her was decided on killing him.
A mage such as him would undoubtedly have thought of emergency measures to escape. Even her being an Ascender herself, she wasn't assured that he might know some secret spells that would allow him to flee from her, and he hadn't shown any special attachment to any of his followers, which made kidnapping them to pressure him a dubious line to follow.
So, she would wait. Wait until he delivered himself to the place where she would be the most powerful, the White Sea.
It wasn't far, now.
As soon as they got a few hundred meters into the White Sea and she became capable of defending herself even when fighting against Overlords, while also easily blocking all his routes of escape, she would attack swiftly and certainly.
But first, she had to get to Wyvern Pass Fort and sent word of her decisions to her master, the Queen.
Shadow One's beloved creator.
When Aaron arrived at the gates of the fort, no beast had appeared to try and stop him. Everyone in the road, plus his original companions, followed him in silence, most of them fearful of the lightning that would hit the ground now and them.
Many times they had to circumvent the smoking corpse of a fallen wyvern.
However, they didn't expect that as they approached the gates, it would remain closed.
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I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
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