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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everybody and thank you for your support!

Today I'd like to shoutout another Amazon release that came out yesterday as well, by the same author that wrote Blessed Time. This is Viceroy's Pride by Coco/Cale Plamann, which starts out with a fantasy alien invasion/litRPG apocalypse but like a Humanity, Fuck Yeah perspective.You should check it out.

As for me, I watched Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal recently. I absolutely loved it. It's very different. Bloody violent. That real old primordial fantasy stuff. Like Conan with dinosaurs. 

Alrighty, forward unto Fool!

Alex’s jaw dropped as he stepped into the room.

“Really?”

The doors quietly closed behind him.

“Indeed!” Baelin gestured to the mountains of paperwork. “The gods of parchment and fruitless bureaucracy are appeased, diplomatic envoys have shaken each other’s hands enough times, and the city has completed their part of the arrangements. Tomorrow morning, I—and one of the city’s councillor’s—will be chatting with your head of state. Any messages you would like me to ferry? Complaints about taxes, for instance?”

Alex froze. “No, I-”

“I joke, of course,” He laughed as he gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Come now, it is summer and it is a beautiful day: let some of that lightness into your heart.”

“I am, I just don’t think it’d be beating for long if I was executed for offending the king…through you.”

“Oh, bah.” Baelin waved a hand. “If you remain on the path of Proper Wizardry, you will one day gather power, and kings, queens, emperors and empresses will seek you out. Or—at the very least—lordlings or others of lesser powers. You will offend one of them inevitably since their demands can sometimes cross into the realm of the unreasonable.”

“Well, that sounds like a ‘later’ kind of thing,” Alex said. “So, uh, I won’t take up much of your time...I just wanted to talk for a minute. …Theresa and I were in a fight recently, and I was wondering if I could get your insight on something?”

“Oh?” Baelin cocked his head. “Did you perhaps take my advice on monster-hunting?” He watched Alex’s face closely. “Aaaah, so there it is. And how did it go? What did you hunt?”

“A vespara, actually,” Alex said. “But things got kinda complicated.”

“They tend to,” Baelin said.

Alex launched into the details, summarizing the contract, telling Baelin about how he and Theresa had prepared for the vespara and how they’d located its territory and scouted it out. He told him about the footprints, the people controlling the monster, the wizard that was there, the sentry they’d missed, and how the fight had gone.

“After that…” He continued. “The nobildonna’s steward paid us and we handed over the troublemakers to her house guards with the letters we took from the cave. Then we went to City Hall and collected our bounty for the vespara and reported the four that’d been controlling it. They told us they’d begin an investigation once the nobildonna’s people brought in the letters and the wizard and company.”

“I see,” Baelin mused. “And how do you think you did?”

“Uuuuh,” Alex scratched his head. “I think it went okay. Like, you talked about how we’d find ourselves in a fight one day where we wouldn’t have the advantage right? So, we tried to minimize their advantages and maximize ours. I only wish we’d checked the terrain better and found that second sentry.”

“True, that was a lapse…it is hard for me to say since I was not there, but perhaps it would have been suitable to continue seeking a way through the forest around the insects to allow yourselves to circle the entire camp.” The chancellor tapped his desk, as he thought things through. “You were not under a major time limit, and could have afforded the extra time it would have taken to find a route around the sentries, even if it was necessary to completely retreat and circle around…but then again.”

He paused. “Such scouting might have increased your chances of being discovered by the enemy. In any case, you lived. You subdued the wizard and his partners without allowing him the opportunity to cast a single spell; that is the best result one can ask for when facing another wizard in combat, I would say.”

He looked at Alex appraisingly, “…does something else trouble you, though?”

“Hm?”

“You have a…troubled air about you.”

“…maybe,” Alex paused. “Can I ask you a strange question?”

“Only if you are prepared for a strange answer.”

“Was…uh…was there ever a time you were...uhm...hesitant about killing? When you were young?” He looked at the skulls sitting on Baelin’s shelves. “I mean, not killing monsters or beasts or things like that, but like…people. Mortal people. I was thinking when we were sneaking up on those people that Theresa and I might well…”

“Might have to kill someone,” Baelin finished for him.

“Well, yeah. And I’m still not really sure how I feel about that. I mean, with monsters it’s one thing…but I dunno. So, I wanted to ask what it was like for you…if that’s not too personal.”

He paused. “Look, I’m sorry that question’s way out of line. Like, I dunno, my head’s kinda turned around about it.”

“No, no, not to worry, Alex, I am not in the least offended and have no reticence in discussing the subject,” the chancellor said. “But I would caution you...do not ask such a question of most. There are those who have lived the mercenary life, or have experienced the horror of fighting in war, or have even slain another in their own defence. For…how should I put this…” He thought for a moment. “For many—in a strange irony—killing another wounds one’s own heart, mind and spirit. In those cases, it is not polite to poke at another’s wounds.”

“Yeah,” Alex shook his head. “Yeah I got it, sorry.”

“As I said, think nothing of it,” Baelin sighed, then looked at his shelf of trophies. “I am old Alex. Unnaturally so for my race, and I have seen more death in my lifetime than most. It…to me, it is just another part of the universe now. Things die, and so do people. I no longer trouble myself with it overmuch unless it marks the death of a friend.”

The ancient wizard paused, gathering his thoughts.

Alex swallowed. Something about that…and the way Baelin had said it made him deeply uncomfortable. He thought about The Mark and how it didn’t register swatting insects as combat. The way Baelin talked, it was almost…similar. Like the death of most was beneath his notice.

Except, he wasn’t talking about insects, he was talking about people. It seemed a pretty alien way of looking at things…

‘Then again, how else could he look at it?’ Alex considered. ‘If you live long enough to see entire kingdoms rise and fall, what is a mortal’s life to you?’

He quickly put those thoughts from his mind as Baelin started to speak again.

The ancient wizard mused. “You are not the first to ask me this question, you know. Many students who have come before you have sought me out with such burdens on their minds: striking down another person is not a simple undertaking. Did you know that armies spend much of their initial training in curbing most people’s natural inclination to not kill another person?”

“Really?” Alex shifted in his chair. “I thought it was all just…thrusting spears and marching and stuff.”

“Oh, my, no.” Baelin shook his head. “In many societies—such as clan societies that earn their fortune through raiding other clans—battle and killing becomes natural, for it is part of their culture from the time they are born. It is easier for people to engage themselves in armed-struggle when they know they have their deities’ edict and a nice reward awaiting them in the afterworld. Some deities even reward only those who die in battle for this very reason.”

“…they sound like cruel deities.”

“Many are. Many are. In other realms, though—more agricultural ones where their lands are safe—the only thing a peasant-levy or new-recruit may have slaughtered are chickens, pigs or cows. For some born with a silver spoon—like those from mercantile houses—they would have perhaps only engaged in no more than the occasional hunt for sport. And generally, most people do not seek to kill others under normal circumstances.”

He gestured in the air, creating an illusion of a miniature soldier in blue armour—no larger than a pinky nail—hovering over one end of his desk and gripping a tiny crossbow. Another soldier wearing red armour appeared on the other side of the desk, with a spear in his hand.

The first soldier winced then reacted by levelling his crossbow at his opponent as he appeared. At the last instant, he jerked his weapon up and fired: the bolt soared through the air and landed harmlessly in a pile of papers.

“See this?” Baelin pointed at the little soldier. “This is a rather common occurrence on battlefields filled with new recruits. In the chaos of combat—among hundreds of your fellows—it is easy to purposefully ‘miss’ an opponent standing one hundred yards away. Who is to know? If both sides did this, war would be a fairly bloodless affair, would it not? But, ah, observe.”

He pointed back down at his desk.

Alex watched as the soldier in red dropped his spear, hoisted a crossbow to his shoulder and fired a bolt. The shot streaked across the desk and slammed straight into the blue soldier, who collapsed in a heap. The red soldier’s expression didn’t change at all.

“And this is what happens if one side of a battle consists of soldiers who are not prepared to slay their foes…but the other is completely ready to,” the chancellor said. “Hence why—in realms with advanced military science—people are made to numb their aversion to killing. Usually, officers spend a great deal of time painting the realm’s enemies as something less than people. There is a reason the Irtyshenans expound the view that only they possess true civilization while all others outside of their reach are considered barbarians or monsters. It aids in their lust for conquering.”

He sighed. “In the first iterations of The Art of the Wizard in Combat I actually held classes that specifically pitted students against other people: criminals who were awaiting execution, to be precise.”

That chilled Alex’s blood.

Baelin sighed. “But, alas, the university’s ethics committee deemed it too mentally damaging for the students. In some ways I agree, there were a few students who…lost their zeal for wizardry afterward. But, the sad truth is that when you walk this path long enough, eventually someone will try to kill you. Perhaps if you live a hermit’s life largely in isolation and die from natural causes, you might avoid it, but if you are active in your wizardry and out in the world, and if you find ways to live long enough, I guarantee that someone will want you dead.”

Alex paused at that. “…yeah, I guess.”

“And to answer your original question: I drew blood very early in my life. Things were very different and vastly harder back then. Territory was valuable, and if herds of deer that your tribe relied on for meat wandered into another tribe’s territory, then deadly conflict would result.” He raised his hands. “I am afraid these hands knew the feel of blood before they knew the caress of magic. So it was different for me. I cannot quite remember what my mind did to me the first time I killed someone. Perhaps…that memory is lost to me on purpose. In any case, if the notion of killing another person discomforts you, then avoid it while you can. But be prepared.”

He rose up in his chair. “Use the clever mind that we wizards possess to predict and avoid such conflicts, or find ways to be powerful enough that most cannot easily harm you: mercy is the privilege of the strong, after all. And there can be much merit in not killing everyone that seeks conflict with you. Tends to provide you with more friends and allies. But…if and when there comes a time when another seeks to do you irreparable harm…then do not hesitate. Not even for an instant. Because if you do, and they do not…”

He glanced down at the soldier in red armour, still floating over his desk. “Well, I think you can gather my point.”

Alex gulped. “Yeah, I get it…thanks, Baelin. For what it’s worth, I think the world needs perspectives like yours. Helps us to not forget things.”

The chancellor laughed. “What you just said is one of the kindest things you can say to an elderly person. Too many think our perspectives are unworthy once we rise past a certain measure of years. Even for one such as I. You-”

Thmp. Thmp. Thmp.

“Baelin?” a young voice asked. “Are you there?”

“Ah,” Baelin said. “-but I am lucky enough that the young still seek me out. That will be one of my other students. Now off you go, and put those thoughts of blood and darkness out of your head for now: you gained victory over a foe. You have debriefed what could have gone awry, you are unharmed and so, it is now time to celebrate and not ruminate.”

“Right…I’ll keep that in mind,” Alex said. “Thank you.”


Alex was walking through the hall—with Claygon’s footsteps thumping behind him—when his mind drifted back to what Baelin had said about old perspectives. He wondered what it might have been like for The Traveller, or other Heroes who’d survived long enough to live through a second cycle of the Ravener.

From what the church school had taught, it was a rare occurrence: most of the folk in Thameland were human or from races with similar lifespans, and so Heroes surviving a full hundred years to be around for a second cycle had only occurred a handful of times in recorded history. In most of those cases, they had aided the new generation of Heroes in their quest. Some had died in the effort—like The Traveller—and some survived the second conflict.

He thought about his own future…his far future.

Theresa was fully engaged in life enforcement, and that practice naturally extended a person’s life. If things went well and he…well, he and she got married, he’d pretty much have to find ways to extend his own life so that he wouldn’t die decades before her.

That would mean, though, that he could quite possibly live long enough to see another Ravener’s cycle, if they didn’t find a way to permanently break it this time, that is. What would be happening then? Would his homeland know about him and The Mark?

Would the people of Thameland want anything to do with him, even if he did want to give help to a new generation of Heroes? Would he want anything to do with them?

He put those thoughts away.

There were more immediate things to worry about.

It was time to get Selina’s gift built and ready, he had to get more information about these Games of Roal, and he needed to keep pushing through the spells he was learning over the summer. Then there were his official courses to think about.

And finally, Theresa’s parents would be arriving in a few mornings. Plenty to actually do, and not a lot of time for hypotheticals.

But, it was gonna be hard not to think about Baelin’s meeting with the king of Thameland.

That meeting would decide the fate of the expedition.

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

One of my favourite chapters, NGL.

Now the next two chapters are both interludes (which are just regular chapters but not from Alex's perspective)...and uh....they're from Baelin's perspective. The folks on patreon liked 'em Yeeeeah booooi!

Cya tomorrow!


Big thanks to all my readers—I appreciate each and every one of you—and a very special thanks to my patrons on my Patreon

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