Chapter 33 – Colonel Eminence Deadfire
Aaron looked at Mark and nodded with his head. The butler understood what that look meant, bowed slightly and stepped ahead.
"Open the gates!" The butler yelled.
No one replied. Aaron frowned and lightning befell the fort, stopped by the transparent dome.
Mark swallowed and turned to Aaron. "Young master, I..." He yelled over the deafening sound of thunder. "The fort is not manned by wild beasts... To act this aggressive..."
Aaron said nothing. Lightning kept falling for a few minutes. When he finally stopped it, he spoke. "The Wyvern Pass Fort is commanded by Colonel Eminence Deadfire," he said loud enough for everyone nearby to hear, and anyone using a hearing spell over the walls, too. "He is not part of the Valdian Family but was granted his command in recognition of his services. And yet, not only he refused to come at the rescue of people who wanted to enter his city but were besieged by beasts, he now bars the way of the First Champion of the family! He is no wild beast, my butler, he is something much worse. A traitor!"
As soon as he finished speaking, the gates of the fort screak, opening slowly. Not the smaller gates that common people used on a daily basis, but the large ones, almost as tall as the walls themselves, that only opened in situations such as when armies were leaving to battle for glory.
And indeed, on the other side of the gates, a battalion of fighters stood ready.
At the head of the battalion, an Eminence mage was mounting a Horned Nightmare Wolf, a Five Star black wolf the size of a horse, with red eyes that seemed to release a kind of fog and pointed antler-like horns on its head. The man wore an impressive red armor with red gemstones that seemed to release flames, an optical illusion that showed that they were high grade fire gems.
Behind the man, on black horned horses that were Three Star beasts, stood five lines of five men, all of them Champion mages wearing enchanted plate armor. Further behind, on foot, five hundred mages, from Five to Three Stars in level, stood ready, wearing armors that looked a mix of leather, with some plate parts here and there. Finally, behind the mages, there were thousands of warriors in all kinds of armor.
To the sides of the army, one story houses made of solid iron and inscribed with magic served as an extra layer of protection in case of an invading ground army. The magic in them included self-destruction formations, as to prevent the enemy from using them as cover.
Other than the battalion, the streets were empty.
"Who dares call me a traitor?!" The man at the head bellowed.
"Look at your army, traitor!" Aaron replied without any fear. "You're allowed to have five Champions at your call at most!" That was the whole reason for the family to commission the fort, so they could defend the mountain pass with a small contingent. They naturally wouldn't allow anyone to amass such a strong army without supervision, especially on the edge of the country! "But you have twenty-five! You can have a hundred mages at most, but you have five hundred! You can have a thousand warriors at most, but let me guess that you have five thousand! You can hire five times your numbers in case of an emergency, but do you expect me to believe people this strong, and even their mounts, just happened to be in the fort while it was besieged, and thus closed to outsiders? Do you dare lie to my face like that, Colonel Eminence Deadfire?!"
Although the man was a Colonel and an Eminence, Aaron was part of the ruling family. He was royalty, and as First Champion, his position was way above Deadfire, who wasn't a Grand Elder due to not being a Valdian. Firestar had also taught Aaron some political intricacies of that world, especially concerning the family, and Deadfire was known to be on the verge of rebelling.
They couldn't even do anything to him before he actually betrayed the family because he was an honorary agent of the Immortal Crusade, which made him untouchable unless he acted against the rules of the Crusade itself. There was a difference between forced membership, like what happened to all Ascenders, and being an agent, even an honorary one, which had a much greater status. Overlords, on the other hand, were big figures in the Crusade, even more important than agents.
Of course, since Firestar didn't seem to care about it even on the verge of losing such an expensive gift, the expensive fort, Aaron could guess that it had hidden mechanisms to allow the family Ascenders to easily get inside and get rid of opposition. But now, the man had acted against Aaron.
Not protecting the fort and its commerce, even with such a formidable army, was already reason enough for anyone in the family to be pissed with Deadfire. For him to dare to not immediately open the gates as soon as the First Champion was seen, was an enormous slap to the face of the family!
Photos of every Eminence and Champion in the family were sent to all corners of the kingdom, and it was law that every person should know them, to guarantee that they would be properly received. The Valdian Kingdom was ruled with an iron hand, and although Aaron didn't agree with every rule, he wouldn't allow anyone to just rebel against his family like this!
After all, there was a chance that he might have a use for the family in the future. He didn't want it to weaken before then.
The man yelled furiously. "You dare insult me again, kid?!" His horned black dog stepped ahead and seemed restless. "You dare say that to my face?!"
"Are you still not kneeling in front of the First Champion, traitor?" Aaron crossed his arms. "This is your last chance to beg for forgiveness before I get tired of your insolence, officially declare you a traitor, and enact your punishment right here, right now."
Normally, only an Eminence could punish a Colonel for treason like that, but as a First Champion, it was Aaron's prerogative, too.
There was a long silence before the man raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Three extra mounted Champions, almost a hundred new mages, and countless new warriors appeared from the nearby houses.
Aaron raised an eyebrow. "Are you opening rebelling, then?"
Deadfire sneered. "A kid with the power of a Champion, a child speaking like a man. As an honorary agent of the Immortal Crusade, I declare you a demon!" He said confidently. "To be purged immediately!"
Before he could do anything else, a snort was heard coming from everywhere, and Shadow One stepped to the side of Aaron. "I accuse you of using the Crusade to further your personal goals," a genderless voice said, filling the ambient. Aaron guessed it came from Shadow One. "Do you plead guilty?"
Deadfire turned his face slightly to look at her. "Who in the Depths are you?"
"I'm Shadow One, an Extended Agent under an Overlord whose name you're not worthy enough to know," she said, and in the even longer silence that followed, even Aaron got worried for his future.
In his questionings about the Crusade in Lamia, he had learned a lot about it. Overlords ruled the Crusade in the absence of the Emperor Saint. These Overlords ever so rarely sent Extended Agents to act on their behalf, who had the same rights and duties as the Overlords themselves.
At first, Aaron thought Shadow One was just a common Crusader, but now, she had declared herself to be much more. When he killed her, the Crusade wouldn't just show some weak anger at losing such a precious treasure like her, but an actual leader would get downright pissed at Aaron for killing their Extended Agent!
He suppressed a sigh. She had to go, for she hadn't cared for his safety when reading his memories and would've killed him if his soul resistance was slightly worse. For him, that was as good as attempt murder, and he wouldn't just forgive her for it. Fortunately, now that he knew what to expect after he was done with her, he decided to use the most decisive of the escape plans he had drawn.
"Speak, Honorary Agent Eminence Deadfire!" Shadow One said, still using the genderless voice that came from everywhere. "Do you plead guilty?"
"I..." Deadfire was lost on how to act. "Senior Agent, he is a demon!" He pointed at Aaron. "Help me get rid of him!"
"Not only you use the Crusade to further your personal goals, you even dare to try to beguile an Extended Agent!" The voice said, filled with fury, then emotionlessly proclaimed: "Die."
And die Deadfire did. His body suddenly fell from his mount, hitting the floor like a potato sack. There was no mana disruption that Aaron could feel, so it should be some remotely controlled spell or item placed on Agents' souls to guarantee their obedience.
"This fort is now under lockdown by the Immortal Crusade," the genderless voice said, and the gates suddenly closed with a loud boom. "Everyone inside will be investigated and properly judged. Until then, the people outside might either go back or accompany me as we cross the Wyvern Pass."
It wasn't a surprise to Aaron that she could easily control a place created by the Emperor Saint, who obviously wouldn't want something he created being used against his group.
It also wasn't a surprise that Shadow One prevented Aaron from taking control of the fort and the people inside. She didn't want him using them against her. As for the merchants and mercenaries, they didn't matter; they were just weaklings that could be used as cannon fodder as they traveled the Wyvern Pass.
Most of them weren't suicidal though, and only a single man decided to follow the group through the mountains. He was a short thin young fella with a messy beard and worn out leather clothes. It was the first time Aaron saw someone wearing glasses in this world, which together with the very subtle mana disruption he felt from it, made him immediately want to identify it.
Check Item, he thought.
Name: Double Spectacles
Grade: Lower Artifact
The name of the item said nothing about what it was used for, but the fact that an Inept was wearing a Lower Artifact — something around the level of a Champion —, told tales of either a powerful background or overwhelming amounts of money. Or both.
He was carrying a backpack filled to the brim and had two spatial rings, something way beyond the means of any common Inept. More importantly, to guarantee his life despite showing such wealth, he should also have many live saving treasures with him.
The youngster had a tired expression, and despite being an Inept, he didn't seem to fear even the lightning that was still falling everywhere from time to time.
Aaron distrusted him greatly.
"I'm Lo," he said as he joined the group. "Nice to meet you," he continued, still without feeling any awe when facing the First Champion of the Kingdom, or even an Extended Agent of the Immortal Crusade!
"Aaron Valdian," Aaron presented himself and everyone did likewise, except for Shadow One.
Aaron felt a bit frustrated for not entering the fort. His original plan required him to use a formation, and he had wanted to take the time in the fort to inscribe a formation plate, a disk of metal especially made for being scribed.
Now, he would have to do things the hard way. He hoped enough beasts attacked his group, so he could gather enough of their blood for his purposes!
"Leave the horses," he said as he stopped his Lightning Storm, taking mana coins to fill his mana pool as they stepped towards the Wyvern Pass.
Mark didn't know why the One-Who-Serves had joined the group.
Although the mages knew almost everything the warriors did in the shadows, there were some shadows that only select warriors were privy about, like the man wearing double spectacles!
Support "(ON HIATUS) Immortal Mage"
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
Mailing list: http://www.edward-castle.com/