Advertisement
Remove

A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everybody and thank you for your support!

Ugh, where I am in the world it gets dark at like four now, ugh. It's only a little later and I'm starting at a jet black night jeez. Aaaah winter. 

Alrighty let's get into the chapter!

Alex recalled how Prince Khalik had described ‘dragonfear’ as a power he’d experienced when he’d come upon a dragon near his kingdom once.

“Dragons have an aura around them of supernatural fear, and the older they get, the stronger it grows. The fear penetrates the mind and infests the heart. Not fear from within-” He’d said. “-but fear from outside.” He’d gestured all around. “It is magical, and it digs into the mind like a pickaxe. I bet you that when you learn more of these shoggoths, you will find that this is true of them as well. I will bet you a good sum of coins on that.”

Alex wondered if Baelin had some similar power running through his very being. The chancellor hadn’t suddenly grown any bigger—and he wasn’t making any threatening motions—but his presence seemed to overshadow the entire room. Something about him looked…not mortal. Like he was an ancient, mystical force barely constrained by a mortal shell.

Then again, Alex supposed that was very likely what he was.

He glanced around the room, taking in everyone present.

Originally, he’d imagined that the meeting would be a happy, enthusiastic one. It was the orientation and first briefing of those who’d eventually become the expedition’s core team members.

Of the twenty or so people in the room, there were many that Alex didn’t recognize, but there were also a few familiar faces.

Seated closest to Baelin was Professor Jules, and the normally confident little woman shifted in her chair, her face a mix of anger and nerves. Beside her were a few of her graduate students, including Amir Abu Saleh.

Amir was sweating like a pot cover beneath his tall hat, and was also looking like he hadn’t slept in days as he did his best to not meet Baelin’s gaze. He wasn’t the only one in that position. Isolde, right beside Alex, sat with her eyes cast down toward the table, and he could hear her teeth grinding in her jaw.

Everyone else in the room wore expressions that ran the gamut from angry, to frightened, to very uncomfortable.

Alex too was feeling a mix of fear, agitation and resentment.

“This. Will. Not. Be. Tolerated,” Baelin finally spoke, his deep voice making everyone in the room jump. “While we are not gathered here today to discuss yesterday’s attack, I will not ignore the elephant in the room.” His goat-like eyes flashed. “This…coward waited until I was absent to strike my…our city like some diseased, desperate viper…it will not be tolerated.”

“Chancellor,” another professor cleared his throat. “Are we able to continue with this endeavour? The expedition will require your absence from Generasi at times: if it is true that this summoner waited until you were away to strike, then would it not be prudent to wait until they are caught before we proceed?”

“No, our plans cannot be held hostage by whatever motivations are at play here.” Baelin said. “This expedition is too important. The most dangerous aspect of a catastrophe is often not the catastrophe itself, but the actions of people in the wake of such a disaster. An earthquake might kill a thousand, but people abandoning their crops and leaving their harvest to rot might kill twenty thousand. We are on the cusp of one of the most important discoveries for wizardry in hundreds of years. We will proceed…but with caution while I myself and the ruling council continue our work to uncover the snake’s pit.” The air in the room chilled for a moment.

“Has there…” Jules spoke up. “Been any sort of progress on that front?”

“I cannot speak on that,” Baelin said. “But rest assured. We all share one goal; their apprehension...however that is accomplished.” He let the weight of his words hang in the air, then he looked at everyone assembled and said, “Now. Let us speak of our expedition. The purpose of why we are here.”

He waved his hands through the air, creating an illusion of a landscape that was both familiar and unfamiliar to Alex. He gasped. It was Thameland; he recognized the trees and the colour of the grass as from his homeland.

The area that Baelin was showing them was definitely a wilder part of Thameland: it appeared to be a moorland covered in wild grasses, rocky outcroppings that rose into the air like stone fingers, and what looked to be ancient, half-buried ruins.

“This is Greymoor within the Barony of Devon, and it is now firmly part of Generasi territory through lawful purchase. It is where our base of operations will be,” Baelin said. “The terrain is tough. The wind is strong due to the elevation, and the soil is quite acidic—unsuitable for productive farming—but there is plenty of granite to be mined, and flat areas for construction. It was the location of a dungeon that produced newt-like monstrous humanoids, but—unfortunately—the dungeon was cleared out by Thameland’s Heroes several months ago.”

He shifted the illusion above several forests of ancient trees, bogs, tors and rivers. “Aside from the dungeon, Greymoor is relatively safe. Finding wild monsters there is uncommon, apparently. According to the Church of Uldar, the most common naturally occurring monsters are asrai faeries, phantom wild cats, the occasional blue annis hag as well as redcaps, bugbears and beast goblins. Animals there are small and mostly harmless, and there are plenty of game birds and edible fish such as salmon and trout in the waters. There seems to be very little of concern there. Are there any questions so far?”

“Are there any magical plants of alchemical value?” Jules asked while studying the illusion, and jotting down notes in a notebook.

“It seems the most valuable magical flora known in the area are the occasional aeld tree, and various herbs found in the forests. Which leaves room for you to make your own discoveries. The Thameish crown has agreed to provide us with suitable bestiaries for a full catalogue of resources and dangers. Which reminds me…”

He shifted the illusion, dividing it in half. The half on the left travelled south through the wilderness until it came upon a port town surrounding a castle. The illusion on the right traveled west until it reached a village.

“This is Devonport to the south, it is the seat of the barony and the largest settlement that is close by. We will likely not have much dealings with Devonport, but keep its location in mind should we have the need to make contact. The other closest settlement is the Village of Luthering to the west.”

Alex squinted.

He noticed that several of the village’s buildings looked like they’d suffered some damage.

“Luthering will likely be of little interest to us, and us to them, but if you find yourself in trouble, they have agreed to provide aid to anyone lost our in need from our expedition. Any more questions?”

No one spoke up.

“Alright then. This is how things will unfold. We will conduct the expedition in several stages.” He conjured a list. "Stage 1 will be clearance and surveying. I will be tasking select team members with the duty of clearing the terrain of any threats such as wild monsters or stragglers that were spawned from the dungeon. These members will also be tasked with exploring and mapping the region. It would not do to begin mining and construction operations only to be raided by monsters we did not anticipate. Stage 2 will be construction: our site is the equivalent of an active war zone due to the situation currently being experienced in Thameland. Other expeditions might have to make-do with a simple research camp, but we are wizards of Generasi. I want a full fortification constructed in Greymoor before the winter snows come, strong enough to withstand a siege from any of these dungeons. Once we have done our survey and understand the lay of the land, we will choose the most advantageous spot on which to construct our fortified home away from home, as it were. We will also create suitable building plans to meet our needs.”

Alex raised a hand.

“Yes, Alex?” Baelin asked.

“Will you be transporting the teams personally?” He asked.

“Indeed, but not each day,” the chancellor said. “While it would be tempting to simply teleport a team in the morning and bring them back in the evening, such a practice would cause us to miss valuable data. Sometimes what is not apparent during the day, becomes very apparent at night.”

“Okay,” Alex said, writing that down.

“Next, then.” Baelin shifted the illusion so that several castles of various designs floated before him.

“Once the fortification is complete, we will enter Stage 3: Set-up. I will craft a teleportation circle that will link the university and the research castle we will construct. As a measure of security, only those who possess an assigned key may use the portal, and I will need to recharge the circle once every twenty-four hours or it will cease to function. We will use this means to transport equipment into the fortification to create the necessary laboratories.”

Jules nodded in approval.

“Finally, in the last step, we will begin our operations. We will start with obtaining one sample of dungeon core remains and using that for initial experiments. If that proves fruitful, we will expand. Keep in mind that Thameland’s ambient mana is far lower than that of Generasi. This will necessitate the construction of veryexpensive analytical devices that can hold enough power to function in the fortification. Keep this in mind, and handle them with care.”

Baelin then proceeded to divide the research team up according to task. Many tasks were administrative, but others involved more active roles.

Finally, the chancellor looked at Alex.

“Alex and Isolde, I would like you to do two things: in Stage 1. First of all, I would like you to aid in some of the construction of the magical analysis equipment for the expedition. It will be excellent learning and you both have shown the competence in alchemical construction to be of benefit.”

“I’ll count that as part of your credits for your alchemy courses this summer,” Professor Jules added.

“We accept with honour,” Isolde said.

“Oh yeah, honour and excitement and all that.” Alex nodded along.

“Secondly, I would like you two to form a team—select your chosen team members then get their paperwork to me for approval—and then use that team to participate in surveying and clearing out our new land.”

Alex blinked in surprise.

“Really? Us?” he asked. “I’m not even a second year student yet. I mean, like, thank you for the vote of confidence, but I’m sure there’s a ton of other students who’d be more qualified.”

Baelin raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? Alex, you have more combat experience than most people in this room.”

“Wait, really?”

“I’m no fighter,” Amir laughed nervously; several of the other students and professors nodded with him.

“The Art of the Wizard in Combat has granted us a lot of experience, Alex,” Isolde said. “And let us not forget the situations we have been involved in on top of that.”

“Indeed,” Baelin agreed. “I did not construct the Art of the Wizard in Combat to prepare students for a life of farming. If you have passed my course, you are qualified for battle. And—as Isolde said—you have experience beyond that. Further, you might not be native to this particular part of Thameland, but you are—as of now—the only member of the research team that is Thameish. That is a valuable asset and let us not forget Claygon…for multiple reasons.”

Alex nodded. He’d been wondering what would happen when Claygon went to Thameland with his dungeon core-built golem core. Maybe that was one of the things Baelin meant by ‘multiple reasons’.

“And remember,” Baelin added, cutting through his thoughts and addressing the whole team. “Be cautious in your dealings with strangers. The city is making every effort to catch the demon summoner, but the inescapable fact is that this person waited until I was away before acting. That shows that they seek vulnerability: so be careful, and use your common sense.

Alex swallowed.

What a time for Theresa’s parents to come for a visit. He wasn’t sure how they would react to the idea of him going back to Thameland to hunt monsters and help set up a wizardly research expedition.

Especially if Theresa wanted to go along too.

How would they react to her wanting to go?

They had been happy to let her come with him when he was escaping Thameland, but that was because they thought they’d be running from certain danger, not toward it.

Now here they were in Generasi while this demon summoner still stalked the city…


“Is it always so…well-guarded?” Mrs. Lu asked, watching as a patrol of Watchers passed by the window, floating on their stone disks. “It feels more like an army fortress than a school.”

“Not usually quite like this,” Alex said, as he carried supper on a cloud of forcedisks while Mr. Lu and Selina set the table together. The hearty meat stew and freshly baked bread steamed in the later summer evening air. He’d also made his signature cookies in celebration of the Lus’ visit.

“It’s because of what happened at City Hall,” Theresa said, her frown deepening as the Watchers soared past. “They’re working to keep us safe so we can enjoy ourselves.”

“Mhm…” Mrs. Lu mused, and she idly reached out and hugged her daughter.

“Mother, I’m okay,” Theresa said.

“I know, I know,” Mrs. Lu said.

Mr. Lu eyed the food as Wizard’s Hands removed it from the disks and set it on the table. He gave a long, almost nostalgic look at the bread and cookies, then looked up at Alex and shook his head.

“It’s almost a relief,” he said.

“What is?” Alex asked, puzzled.

“Seeing the bread and cookies let’s me know you’re still you,” he said. “I hardly recognize you. There’s all this.” Mr. Lu flexed, gesturing at his biceps, then at Alex’s. “Then there’s all the magic you can do now…you’re not just a baker anymore, or at least you don’t look like one. So, it’s nice to see you doing something familiar.”

Alex paused, for a moment. “I…I guess you’re right.”

Mr. Lu gave him a small smile and turned to Selina. “Come, come let’s get washed up now.”

“I know that already, Mr. Lu,” Selina said, padding to the wash-basin. “I’m growing up.

The older man paused. “I…suppose you are.”

Alex thought back to what Baelin and Isolde had said.

It was true. When he’d received The Mark, he was simply a baker’s assistant. The mightiest thing he’d ever ‘slain’ was an oversized pie that he’d taken on during an eating contest when he was fifteen.

Now?

He’d fought and killed monsters.

Strong ones that could have killed him.

He’d built a golem.

His best friend was now his girlfriend, and she was even stronger and more fearless than she was before they came to Generasi.

He was part of a cabal of good friends who were growing in their training and becoming more deadly with time.

He’d pushed his body to change and grow, and he wasn’t finished yet. His Mark labelled him as ‘The Fool’, but the chancellor of the greatest university of wizardry in the world now considered him a combat asset.

Mr. Lu was right: he wasn’t just a baker’s assistant anymore.

As a matter of fact, even his baking skills had grown to where he felt they could rival McHarris’.

Maybe it was time he stopped acting like he was merely a baker’s assistant and acknowledged what he was capable of, and how much he’d grown.

The demon summoner was out there somewhere, still a threat. If he ever encountered one of their summoned demons again, maybe it was time for him to do more than just duck and dodge.

Now—with Claygon, and his friends—he could do more.

He could overcome threats. He’d been doing it for a while now.

The time for running—and not seeing himself as he actually was—had come to an end.


“So,” Mrs. Lu said as she scooped up a pat of butter, with a teasing note in her eyes. “How long have you two been together?”

Alex froze mid-bite.

Scrrrrp.

Theresa’s fork scraped across her plate.

“Wait…” Mrs. Lu paused, looking at the two of them carefully. “I was just making a joke…”

Silence.

“Gross,” Selina said. “They've been icky together ever since we got attacked by those monsters at Isolde's cousin’s party.”

Mr. Lu choked on his stew. “Monsters?!”

“And then they were together the whole time I was staying at Abela’s house, they even took Brutus and left him with Khalik,” the treacherous, evil little sister of Alex Roth continued to talk, unaware of the doom she was creating. “Khalik said they got back home late and then went hunting monsters the next morning.”

Alex slowly looked at Theresa for help. His cool, calm girlfriend would surely know what to-

The brave huntress had checked out.

She had gone as white as a sheet and was staring at nothing.

Oh by the Traveller, she hadn’t told them!

Alex had been wrong. The time for running had not come to an end.

Advertisement
A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Ah yes, the true final boss of Fool wasn't The Ravener it was Selina's big mouth hahahhahaa.

Alright, 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. There's up to 20 advanced chapters ahead on patreon as thanks for support!

If you want, I'd love it if you boosted me on Top Web Fiction through the following link.

Join us on discord! https://discord.gg/A4M3CzfWBn


Support "Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy"

About the author

UnstoppableJuggernaut

Bio:

Achievements
Comments(90)
Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In