Chapter 35 | Jeromy 5
Jeromy didn’t waver in front of the deadly beast as he spoke his question and looked at the dragon in its unnaturally-colored white irises.
“HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT NAME?” The dragon’s telepathy carried the voice of a man with years of wisdom and there was no betrayal of the image the legends made Ventra to be.
“I heard about the Guardians from a friend. Prince Adrian is affiliating with them. Whatever they are planning will devastate the continent, perhaps even the world. I need to know. Please.” Jeromy implored the mighty dragon to cooperate but Ventra didn’t see a reason to help. But Jeromy has been the first human in a long time to reason with him.
Ventra asked Jeromy to elaborate on why he needed to know about the Guardians and Jeromy did. The story Jeromy told was fascinating. It seemed something very serious was going on in the world. Although Jeromy didn’t provide any proof, his words were enough to move him.
“THE GUARDIANS WANT A WORLD WAR BETWEEN THE THREE NATIONS?”
“Yes. Once Prince Adrian obtains what he needs from them, he plans to attack the Association Capital.”
“OLD-WORLD TECHNOLOGY CANNOT BE USED ON THEIA.”
“Prince Adrian has a spell to obtain flowing electricity.”
“THIS IS VERY TROUBLING TO HEAR. YOU INTRIGUE ME, HUMAN. YOU HAVE KNOWLEDGE NO MAN SHOULD. HOW?”
“No man from this world, of course. Have you heard of the Phoenix?”
“… I HAVE NOT.”
“It’s an organization of the reincarnated. I have friends there and I have learned a lot from Earth’s history.”
“THE LEADER OF THIS ORGANIZATION, WAS HE A REAPER?”
“Yes. He was before he died.” Jeromy was surprised Ventra knew that fact. If he knew about the reapers on Earth, he would know what happened during Theia’s settlement period.
“JEROMY POWLE, YOU ARE AN INTERESTING HUMAN. I WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS.”
Jeromy didn’t waste any time and breathed in to calm himself. “How did you know the leader of the Phoenix was a Reaper?”
“ONLY THE REAPERS OF EARTH KNOW THE CONTEXT OF THE NAME ‘PHOENIX’.”
Ventra didn’t know what context it was but he knew of it. “Please tell me who the Guardians are.”
“THE GUARDIANS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF HUMANITY AND WERE ASSIGNED THIS POSITION FROM THE OLD GODS. THIS HAS, IN TURN, MADE THEM THE NEW GODS OF THIS WORLD.”
“If that’s the case, why would they want humanity to destroy each other?”
“IT IS NOT UNUSUAL FOR THE GUARDIANS TO KILL HUMANS OR INFLUENCE HUMAN AFFAIRS. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST INSTANCE OF GUARDIANS INTERFERING.”
“How have they influence humans in the past?” Of course, Jeromy knew how but wanted to hear what Ventra had to say about it.
“I CANNOT TELL YOU.”
Jeromy suspected this might happen. There was no way the Guardians didn’t know about Ventra or his people. “Are they threatening you?”
“What are the Starsails in context to the Guardians?”
“I CANNOT TELL YOU.”
Jeromy was going nowhere with this line of inquiry so he tried a different route. “How come this information is suppressed?”
“THE GUARDIANS CONTROL THE NETWORK AND SO THE INFORMATION.”
“What’s the Network?”
“I CANNOT TELL YOU.”
Jeromy clenched his fist as he felt helplessness he hasn’t felt for a long time. The Phoenix already knew a little of the Network but if Ventra wasn’t willing to divulge such information, what hope did they have? There was no way to fight the Guardians unless they knew more about their enemy.
Unless Jeromy gets Ventra to cooperate, they would always be on a defensive stance. How long would they last if that were the case? What would happen to the world? How many millions would be killed?
“Please. My reincarnated friend, Nolan, told me that the name Phoenix meant something. I don’t know the whole context but I know that the Phoenix Organization is strong. Strong enough to resist and fight back against overwhelming odds. Although I myself am not reincarnated, you can see my power and my casting level, so I can tell you we are strong and we will win! You don’t have to fear the Guardians! We want the same thing: to protect what we cherish most.”
“HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THEM?!” Ventra suddenly became very aggressive and agitated. Jeromy just stepped on a landmine.
“The elves knew about your settlements. At first, I didn’t believe them about how the legend and his people were sentient monsters. But, to hold yourself back to protect your people is very admirable. We’re not a threat to you!”
Ventra wasn’t listening anymore and was about to attack. Jeromy lifted his sword with his foot and armed himself while casting a barrier spell. Jeromy refused to give up here. Even with the odds against him, he would fight Ventra and die if he had to. Ventra was about to throw a fireball at him when a tile from the ceiling fell between the two.
The tense atmosphere immediately disappeared as a child floated to the ground. The young boy fell very slowly like a deflated balloon while struggling and flailing his limbs around. He finally landed on his head which made him reel in pain. The boy looked like a demi-human with his horns and wings.
“Father…” The dragon boy said awkwardly. He was nervous and in trouble. “I wanted to see you fight!”
Jeromy stood there with his sword still drawn looking puzzled. The situation changed so suddenly that Jeromy couldn’t keep up with the bizarre display. Ventra gave an unnatural sigh and said, “IT DOES NOT MATTER FOR ANY REASON. RETURN TO YOUR MOTHER.”
“Okay…” Quoras said while looking dejected towards the ground.
He faked out his father as he turned around and ran towards Jeromy. He put his sword into the ground as the young child ran over here. Quoras pulled something out of his robe to hand over to Jeromy.
“Have a cookie, mister! Thank you for helping father!” He bowed lightly and ran out the doors. Jeromy smiled to himself as he placed the cookie in his coat pocket.
“JEROMY POWLE. YOU HAVE DECEIVED ME.”
In the face of that, Jeromy didn’t show any weakness because he believed in what he was doing. “In what way?”
“YOUR TRUE PURPOSE HERE IS TO NEGOTIATE AN ALLIANCE.”
Ventra figured it out and was angry with him. Jeromy didn’t blame him. Ventra was standing guard here for centuries to protect his people from the outside world. He would be reluctant to be involved with humans in any way. “I apologize… But war is coming. I’m not asking you to fight alongside us. But when the fight comes to you and your people, we need you to side with us.”
Using a pulley system, everyone was able to exit the large cavern to the surface at a quick pace. Jeromy was last to be brought up. He thought about the crucial conversation he had with Ventra and he smiled with a sense of happiness and satisfaction. Ventra agreed to the plans of the Phoenix and gave a promise to prevent monster attacks in this area in the future. He was almost killed when Ventra found out his true intentions but something changed his mind.
Upon Jeromy’s return, he asked everyone to never speak about what they witnessed. Ventra’s sentience had to be kept secret. When Prince Shol told him about underground towns in the Elven Forest populated by monsters, Jeromy thought he was joking.
Now that the monster threat has been dealt with, the Association has completed its commission from the Grethenian Kingdom. The King Nyong never specifically asked for them to kill Ventra but to prevent the monster spawns in the area inherent in a Dungeon Masters’ presence. Ventra and his people agreed to lower the monster population around their dungeon.
Selina into his eyes, concerned. “Are you okay, Captain?”
Jeromy looked uneased before recomposing himself for his men. Patrick chimed in with his usual casual attitude, “Don’t worry, Selina. I mean, he did face down a giant dragon. Captain, I’m not sure if you’re brave or just insane.”
“You don’t have to choose. I’m probably both,” Jeromy said.
“When you ordered us to stand down, I was worried, you know. How did you know Ventra could talk?”
Jeromy chuckled at Patrick and answered, “I didn’t.”
“…WHAT?!” Patrick screamed in disbelief while Selina and Jeromy walked away together.
Selina walked alongside Jeromy to the tents with a disappointed look on her face, “You always call Rick out for his antics yet you are just as bad.”
“He makes it too easy to tease him,” he joked.
“Did you really know Ventra was intelligent?”
“Yes, it was something I discussed with Prince Shol. But I couldn’t be one-hundred percent sure about it. I didn’t want to give any false hopes.”
“I almost had a heart attack back there,” Selina sulked but didn’t let it show on her nearly neutral expression.
“Don’t you trust me?” He teased.
Selina wasn’t in the mood and was being serious. She grabbed Jeromy’s sleeve. They stopped and looked at each other. “I do. But I need to know what happened.”
Jeromy didn’t plan to also ally with sentient monsters on his expedition but it just happened. The Phoenix could always use more allies and he had a feeling that Ventra could be trusted. Ventra’s name has been around forever and the great dragon would occasionally come out and remind people of his terror.
Considering his age, Jeromy suspected that he’d have knowledge of the Guardians. His expectations were blown out of the water. Ventra even had a way to defeat the Guardians but it wouldn’t be easy. This was going to take some ingenuity and luck.
Jeromy had suspected that he was sent to Ventra for a reason and that reason was his prophecy. The prophecy was intentionally vague and had only one word: Ventra. After being given that divine word, he researched all he could about the ancient dragon. The moment Jack gave him Nolan’s mission, he knew the prophecy would enact itself here and so he was cautious about how he approached things.
“A prophecy? It sounds a bit impossible. Does it not?” Selina said, skeptically.
“It does but it’s one of the things the Guardians censor knowledge of. It’s a bit ironic.”
“But still, was what happened with Ventra a leap of faith?”
“I guess it was. I’ve learned to trust my instincts on matters such as these.” Jeromy smiled while basking in his victory and while Selina stared at him, not sure what to make of him.
“Were you always this spontaneous? I would have thought my partner would be more predictable.” It was a genuine question from her. Ever since she looked through the monocle, she had been questioning a lot about herself.
“Predictability is boring. Isn’t that what you said back at the academy?” She was confused at that answered but then smiled.
“Yes, of course. I am glad you are safe.” Selina briefly hugged Jeromy before going back into her professional mode.
“Me too,” he replied and saw Selina off as she went on ahead.
Patrick then walked up on Jeromy suddenly and asked, “When are you going to tap that well?”
That night, after returning to Emered, Jeromy went out to the streets immediately afterward to meet up with Hamei in his workshop. It was a moonless night as Jeromy moved quickly and stealthy in the shadow of the clouds and the trees. When Jeromy arrived there, he was let in immediately with Hamei acting a little jumpy.
“What’s the matter? It looks like you’ve seen a ghost,” Jeromy commented.
“Someone accessed the Network while you were gone,” Hamei said it in a whisper as if concerned about being overheard with only the two of them being in the room.
“Besides you?” Jeromy said jokingly.
“This is serious! Whoever they are, they did not use a proxy. I was able to track their IP address to Emered and if I could, the Guardians definitely had,” Hamei took a briefcase from the desk and handed it to Jeromy. “Here it is.”
Jeromy took the briefcase and looked inside to see the Old-World Technology. It was just a simple metal slab to the average passerby but it had the significance of humanity’s past and the Old Gods. It was a precious artifact that looked brand new.
“It is the motherboard Nolan requested. I had to make two trips but I got it. Now get out of my shop,” Hamei said that with a sigh of regret. Jeromy was saddened by that. Jeromy put the case down and hugged the elf, pressing Hamei face against his shoulder. Hamei didn’t reject it and they both came out of the hug with bittersweet smiles.
“Good luck to you, Hamei,” Jeromy said simply as he went out the door. Hamei didn’t say anything and watched his good friend leave, perhaps for the last time.
It was a stressful week but they managed to get through it with no fatalities. Captain Jeromy was grateful for that. Every time someone under his command dies, he had to address the families. It wasn’t something he enjoyed doing.
The mission on their return journey to Riverside was to escort the second elven prince safely to Seutaria. There was a train station in town so once they reached Riverside, it would be a straight shot to Seutaria. Everyone who wanted to leave the city was gathered at the city gates, waiting for them to be opened. There were a lot more civilians going from Emered than civilians going to when they came here.
The elven royal guard was also coming but disguised themselves as normal noble guards to trick possible bandits on the way. The mercenaries were ready to go in this early morning as the ‘man’ of the hour arrived in a plain stagecoach. Prince Lue stepped out and bowed his head to Jeromy and his lieutenants and then immediately ran to his traveling stagecoach without a word.
“That was rude for a prince,” Patrick murmured to Jeromy. Jeromy then jabbed him in his side with his elbow.
The eloquently spoken stewardess stepped out of the stagecoach as the prince did and bowed. “I apologize for His Highness for his rudeness. He is quite shy. On his behalf, we thank you for your service to the crown in this matter.”
Nerea Sow was there when Jeromy caught the prince following him. She was cute with her short stature and long waist-length pigtail but had a sense of maturity that betrayed her appearance. She also dyed her hair blonde at the end to signify her adult status for anyone who wasn’t sure of her age.
“Sir Jeromy, if you do not mind me by asking, would you talk to His Highness in his carriage?”
Jeromy didn’t know why a mere stewardess was asking this but it was bothersome to him. If he were to ride in a comfy carriage as his men were out walking and on horseback, it would be bad optics as their Captain. Jeromy asked if something was wrong.
“No, Sir Jeromy. There is no problem, but it just seems His Highness is only receptive to you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Nerea gave a deep sigh before continuing forward. “His Highness believes he has no allies in the royal palace. He does not speak his mind, even to me,” Nerea looked disheartened while saying that.
“Why is he so open to me? We only met a week ago.”
“His Highness does not usually meet people except for the servants and his family. And so, growing up in that environment… I believe it has distorted his world-view.”
Prince Lue may not have recognized this because of his young age but for someone to say something like that on your behalf was a blessing. “You care for Prince Lue a lot, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. Although I am a lowly servant, Sir Jeromy please accept my request!” She bowed to him again.
“Okay,” Jeromy gave a reassuring smile which satisfied Nerea more than he could imagine.
The next moment, an elven guard walked up to Jeromy and stood in front of him. They stood and looked at each other; the elf only slightly shorter but he had determined eyes. He introduced himself, “My name is Torin Jual. I am the captain of the eleventh company of the royal guard. I am here to help escort the Prince to Seutaria.”
“You are the one who was at the gates when the princes and I were led into the palace.”
Torin knew what he was insinuating but responded professionally, “I am here if you need me, Commander.”
The royal captain wasn’t dismissed but he began to walk away. Jeromy commanded his new subordinate, “Captain Jual, I do have one question for you. Do you have a problem with me? You may speak freely.”
“You were the leader of the Maquis,” he said with clear disdain. “I am surprised that your reputation in Grethenia has not suffered more. However, on assignment, I must put aside my personal feelings on the matter.”
“But you will be serving as my captain of the elven forces here and I want to make it clear that you must follow my orders. You men will be under my direction. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Commander.”
Jeromy didn’t feel like Captain Jual fully understood but dismissed him. At this point, there was little point in asking for a replacement. They all had the same attitude towards him.
Two-hundred mercenaries, one-hundred elven soldiers, and about a hundred civilians and low-ranking elven nobles were in the caravan that left Emered along with many wagons of supplies and gold. Those who defied the Gods risked acquiring their wrath and they spend their days avoiding that wrath. No one could’ve ever foreseen that the wrath of the Gods wasn’t from hellfire or heaven’s light but the stars.