Hero the Escape
Chapter 5: Shock and awe
Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth
While relaxing on her balcony Justiciar Dana Hershim, still awake from worry, saw the bright amber light shine brightly until the heavens and abruptly cut off as abruptly as it began.
No one ever listens anymore. “Karen get my official outfit ready please. I will go myself.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” was heard from within the manse.
Meanwhile, the rest of the city awakened, the residents all afraid but one. That one, returned to bed knowing he wouldn’t attack the civilians, or merchants like himself. There would even be a good profit to be made, if handled correctly. At worst, he would have to relocate until the events settle down. Still, Polus made a huge profit and enjoyed a favorable opinion of a powerful individual. The merchant would keep his agreements, all of them.
Three solid bangs on her door woke Guildmaster Mari; who answered her door in a long heavy shirt as was her usual night attire.
“What is it Marci?” Terrible judgment in men, but with a good memory and a curvy body. Somehow the Guild always seemed to attract receptionists like her. Thought Mari for the countless time.
“The Hermit put on a light show. Solid gold and went to the heavens. No one knows what to do.” The Adventurer’s Guild receptionist panicked aloud to her Master.
“How many of ours are in the forest?”
“Just the Kek party. They should be close to the mountains by now.”
“One minute.” Mari returned to her desk and after writing an official notice signed it. “Post this please. I need to dress.” Closing the door after she spoke; Mari did dress but then went and contacted the other guilds and was occupied until noon with no real answer.
Ebony Forest is ‘A’ rank until further notice. Mari.
Justiciar Hershim ran through the forest at a speed that would shock those that thought they knew her. Faster than the fastest racehorses yet she didn’t seem to be straining. Dana quickly closed the distance to the river and searched for Katlyn before proceeding. Hoping that the ignorant girl was unharmed.
Finding Katlyn was easier than expected. Leaning against a tree with her arms wrapped around her knees, the young Lt. watched the softly pulsating glowing golden circles in fascination and curiosity not understanding their purpose or the power behind them.
Dana strode next to her and squatted, “Tell me everything you remember.” After twenty minutes of formless regurgitation of useless facts and less useful opinions, followed by her lack of understanding how one being could contain that much power, left the novice mage shaken to the core.
“Return to my office and write this up, send a copy to the Countess, one to the captain, one to me and one to your mother.” The older and much wiser woman kindly ordered the lost child, seeing the state the girl was in. Removing her from the location was the best for the girl.
“Mother alerted Yolanda.” Katlyn murmured listlessly.
“Can’t be helped. After you write and send your reports, stay in my office and do not leave without permission. We will discuss this later.”
“Yes, Justiciar.” Knowing a reprimand was forthcoming Katlyn ran to her mount in the early dawn.
Spending ten times the gold profited by Ebony’s best smith over a year in a month should have been a strong enough keep away sign. You tried, but fate conspired against you, didn’t it, Hermit? You had to land in one of the worst counties in the empire. At least it will lead to the removal of Analise and her equally useless daughter.
The Duchess will also see this as a failure of her scion. Katlyn is on precarious ground right now.
How long will you sleep and what will you do when you wake? Too far to see the symbols Dana could only guess their intent. None of the choices she considered were any good. Defensive would mean he would be obstinate and expensive to overcome. Offensive would mean he planned on attacking doing great harm to Ebony City and the Empire. Miscellaneous would be the most troublesome but the least harmful. For now... Unless he revealed the purpose, their use could be almost anything.
Crossing the river uninvited would be an irrecoverable mistake, she felt.
I might have over done it yesterday. My younger body doesn’t have the strength of me at my peak. In a few more days, it wouldn’t matter for I would be out of their precious forest, and I could relax. I hoped.
Exiting the cabin and performing the necessities, I took some soap and went to the river to wash up. A regal older woman in a white tabard with three purple stripes on her shoulders with a gold braided belt covering the lower legs of a griffin in flight stood patiently waiting for me. I felt no pressure from her, she waited for my convenience politely. Purple, gold, white. She represents royalty. Probably a Judiciary. Martial not holy. Someone rational. I hope.
I nodded and flashed my off hand twice, meaning ten minutes. The older woman acknowledged my signal with a nod and turned away giving me privacy. After washing, I started a fire on the stove and put water on in a pot to boil. Dressed in comfortable linen shorts and shirt I beckoned my official visitor to join me from across the river. She sprinted across the river at a remarkable pace. Elemental monk... pausing before me as if sprinting fifty kilos per hour was a light jog to her.
I mentally applauded her body control. Such a feat was difficult to perfect without decades of dedicated training. “I am referred to as the Mad Hermit.” at least Polus calls me that in half jest.
“I am Justiciar Dana Hershim of the Griffin Empire. On behalf of the Empress, I apologize for our transgressions.”
“Oh, the Empire was at fault? Here I thought it was just a typical bloody selfish noble.” I replied with light sarcasm. Not directed at her but the city noble that claimed ownership of an empty forest and the stupid situation itself.
She understood. “Forms and all, I believe you know how it is.”
“All too well. I have water on, would you like some tea and breakfast?”
“I haven’t had anything yet; it would be a pleasure. Thank you, sir Hermit.”
“I have a good Black tea that I have been introduced to or a lighter mint one if the Black is stronger than you prefer.” She had done this dance for far longer and far better than I could, we spoke lightly for some time while I prepared the tea and pan fired venison cutlets with flat biscuits.
After our meal, which wasn’t the best but I never said I was a good cook... “May I ask your plans?” She broached.
“I will be leaving your Empire in a few days. It seems I can’t get any rest here.” Shrugging, I wasn’t happy, but believed I had little choice right now. Since I was in the building stage, a few more strenuous days wouldn’t hurt me. And should be quieter in the long run.
“Where will you go?” At her question, I withdrew a hand sketched map of the coast and showed her an island near the mountains north of me.
“I scouted these three isles out and two were long abandoned. Shouldn’t be an issue to move to this one here. And it’s not part of any country so no one can claim it. Even your official map shows it is outside of your borders.”
“With the winds, it gets a chill on the lake at night. I didn’t think that that island had the wood or stone to develop a house there. Where do you plan on living?” She was interested, but I felt that she knew I already calculated the shortcomings of the location and wondered how I solved them.
“I’ll be taking this with me.” I reached behind me and knocked on the wall of the cabin.
“Take it with you...” A wild thought crossed her mind.
I knew she got it.
“You don’t mean that those are summoning circles and you plan on taking this whole area with you at once? The scale...” Smothering her awe, she came to a quick decision. “May I watch?”
A very intelligent woman. Very perceptive too.
“If you want, I will even show you how I plan on doing it. If you want to come along feel free. It’s up to you.” I replied, seemingly uncaring.
“Why would ... Oh you want to use me.”
“No one should bother me with one of your stature here.” I replied, without a shred of embarrassment.
Justiciar Dana laughed and said that’s fine.
“If you want to change you can use my house, I will be going to the isle when you are ready, if you are still coming.” She did change into light leather pants and vest set. I summoned a water Elemental to carry the both of us. Casting Adapting, allowed the two of us to enter the being and travel inside the formless watery mass. I held her bicep while we traveled across the water surface to the isle. I summoned a greater earth Elemental, instructing it to demolish the shack then to clear and level the area around it. I wanted an extra ten meters in each direction in case the summoning was off. Using the larger Elemental wasn’t mana or gem efficient, but I felt that sooner was better than later.
Leveling the area in tandem with the Elemental’s efforts used a good percentage of my mana and most of the day. The receiving circle was much more intricate. That alone took three hours including the mini circle which represented the larger five at the base. Thankfully it only needed a small amethyst, a drop of blood and a small infusion of mana to ignite.
The wind Elemental flew us back to my home well after sunset and I apologized for not having accommodations for a guest without any intended mockery. She understood and replied that she had to return and report but she would be back at noon for the rest of it if I could wait that long for her. I promised that I would wait and bid the powerful woman a good night.
Elemental Monks were never to be taken lightly...
On the return run to the city Dana felt a force approach and unhappily slowed to meet them.
The sight of fifty soldiers led by the Captain of the lancers dismayed her. She had no idea what they thought they could do against an accomplished mage when they had to cross a raging river which was warded. Besides die that was. They didn’t even bring a mage above the third tier or a senior priestess.
She strode to the Captain, “Turn around. By Imperial Mandate I am declaring Ebony Forest Quarantined until the first of the month. Captain set up check points surround the forest. Keep everyone out.”
“Sorry Justiciar. The Countess ordered me to apprehend the hermit.” With a smirk, the Captain went to move her horse around Dana.
Dana at that point, had enough of Analise and her cronies. With an Earth Strike she swung and punctured the Captain’s knee with her fist, destroying it beyond recovery. Followed by a Fire Slice as she ducked under the horse while cutting the saddle strap with the knife edge of her open hand. The offhand pulled the severed strap bringing the screaming, now former captain and her saddle crashing to the ground. A quick follow up twist to the helmeted head snapped the fallen officer’s neck.
The sudden violence shocked the troops. An old woman just took out the Captain in two moves while none of them ever beat their former leader in practice, even once. She was famous for never losing one on one.
“Well Lieutenant, are you going to comply with Imperial orders or suffer the same fate of that?” Justiciar Hershim casually gestured contemptuously at the fallen knight’s body.
The newly promoted Lt. wasn’t dumb enough to go against a Justiciar, nor an Imperial Decree. “As you command Justiciar. Sergeant, sound the recall and return to Ebony City. Deploy the soldiers as the Justiciar commanded.” With the disciplined soldiers reforming and headed off in the opposite direction, the experienced over promoted sergeant gestured at her fallen commander, not willing to antagonize the Justiciar further, silently asking what she wanted to do with the body.
“Leave her.” Dana ordered and chased down the now saddleless horse, mounted and rode past the troops at a fast gallop to her office. She had work to do before heading back. The experienced Monk did not intend to miss her noon appointment with such an interesting young man. Dana knew instinctively that his apparent age was false, but he still couldn’t have been half her age. Elven blood maybe? That was a possibility but it didn’t feel right. A puzzle for a different day.
The Circle, a couple hundred meters north of the cabin took two hours to create in the early morning misting. Request Greatest Elemental Aid was less difficult but required more power and a larger offering than summoning a normal tiered Elemental. There was also the issue of a Name.
For HIM, a large emerald should suffice. That could wait until my ‘guest’ returned. If this world’s Justiciars were anything like my old one, I expected her to be on time regardless of who she had to trample. According to the book provided by Polus, Justiciars were royal appointees only answerable to the Empress and the Justiciar Council. Reading between the lines after meeting one, I knew that they were all monks on this world too.
This one seemed humane enough to deal with on a personal basis. Too many tended to believe that they Were the Law instead of a representative of Justice or a conduit of fairness for the people. As an Elemental Monk, Dana wouldn’t have progressed very far unless she cast aside her noble bearing and learned to live as a real person for a few years at the minimum. They invariably choose to be adventurers for that time. Agatha had once told me long ago, that without shedding her cloak of nobility passing the first Elemental stage would have been impossible. Even with a good party to explore with it still took almost three years before she could acknowledge that commoners could be better than her and she knew she was damn good. It was a tragedy that Duke Shithead had her killed.
Marnie was devastated when her best friend was murdered.
Betrayed by her own brother... *Sigh ... that deadman even threatened Marnie ... Once ... That was the first time I refused to save the populace from a dragon. Good ole Blackie flew overhead and I waved at him while the companions and I headed away from that region. At least that was what we called him. Non dragons couldn’t earn the right to learn dragon names. Stupid Dragon even came back after he melted the castle and circled us a few times while we all just waved. That was the last time anyone ever threatened Marnie. Every single one of us would jump off a cliff if she asked us too with that crooked smile of hers. And we knew deep down that she would be aghast at even the possibility of that happening. She was too good for us and we all knew it. Only the bad seeds were jealous of me when we were together. The rest, just wanted her to be happy. I swear every one of those morons threatened me more than once that if I ever made her cry, they would feed me to a dragon. Hell, I remember telling them that I would go willingly. Early the following year, when we caught up to him. Blackie said one word. “Why.” Lottie responded for the rest of us. We knew what he was wondering. Pointing at Marnie, she said, “He did the unforgivable. Thank you for killing him.”
I, the hero, could be a fair target for anything and anyone, that was fine by us. We all expected it. But no one touched our Marnie. We were all dumbfounded when the great black dragon declared that it was his nap time and would see us in a few hundred years. And flew off. He was the first dragon to quit the war and thankfully not that last.
All this work in response to a deer.
I rested on my hammock pondering why Dana felt she had to leave in such a hurry. It had to be in prevention of an overreaction by her Countess. Not my concern. Before noon I started a fire and after catching and cleaning a large blue fish, I spit it and rubbed Polus provided premixed seasons into the flesh letting it roast while I secured the breakables for transport.
Polus’s efforts on my behalf at work again. His last trip had added little things that I never considered, yet were perfect such as the dwarven lamp and the prepackaged seasonings for differing meat types.
The Justiciar returned early on a horse with mismatched saddle and bridle. Odd. Wonder who she took it from, since it clearly wasn’t hers.
“Lunch?” The noble lady agreed to my offer. While we ate the afternoon rain started early, just sprinkles for now but the sky had darkened to the east.
“Will the rain disturb your casting?”
“No. We might get a bit wet though. Looks like a good downpour is headed this way.” She too didn’t seem be bothered by the approaching rain either.
We enjoyed a quick yet silent lunch. After, I extinguished the fire and tossed the leftover fish in the river for the Nature to devour. “This way. I need you to stand next to me, whatever you do, stay calm.” I believed my advice was not needed with this woman, but gave it anyway. Experienced Monks were solid, Elemental Monks were Mountains.