Hero the Escape
Chapter 9: Kids These Days
Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth
“They failed. Why am I not surprised? How many dead?” Queried the kind faced woman in white, with the gold starburst centered on her chest.
“None, Lady Sophie. Two serious but non-life threatening injuries on Paladin Krim and Paladin Jannas, along with numerous minor wounds scattered on almost all of the knights. That doesn’t include fifteen dead warhorses; seven with major wounds, five of those will have to be put down or to stud.” the older priestess looked at the report and continued. “He cast a spell that had sharpened rock spikes thrust from the ground under the unit, immobilizing the squad. The two major injuries were from the two leaders that chased after the Mage on foot. Both attest without using any visible magic they were crippled in less than a minute while working together to kill him.”
“What were the rest of the Knights doing while those two chased after the mage alone?” Priestess Sophie replied with disdain.
“They were unable to dismount easily with the spikes scattered between the horses. The spell was a large cone Area of Effect and most of the horses were pierced more than once. Also, once dismounted, they had to break the spikes to help their comrades. It was a strong trap and He easily could have slain all of them at once with a single strong follow up spell.”
“You are telling me that twelve veteran church knights, eight paladins of the faith and two priestesses were rendered useless, with a single non-lethal spell?” The Priestess was incensed, no mere mage should be free from their grasp. And this new wildcard proved to be much to be too dangerous without a leash. Or a noose, she privately added in the depths of her soul. “What about Preda? Did he report after the Guild testing?”
“No, my Lady he has not. I sent a messenger to the guild to have him report right away but no one has returned.” While the Priestess was reporting, a polite knock sounded on the priestess’s office door.
“What is it?” Lady Sophie called out. A junior priestess replied that the messenger returned with important news. “Send her in.”
“Priestess Sophie, the Adventurer’s Guildhouse was closed and locked. I went to the yard in back and no one was there either. The back door was locked too. No sounds from inside when I listened at the door. The girl bowed nervously at failing her task.
“Thank you, child. You may go and see if Sora has anything for you to do.” When the door shut and it was just the two of them again. “Now, what about that Thing over the temple?”
“Palo the smith said to pull it down with horses after we chip away at the base in a direction we want it to fall. It’s going to hit some shops or the temple when it collapses. We need to choose early to control the direction so others don’t decide before we do.”
“See to it. Make certain where it falls does not disturb any of the faithful.” ‘Yes, my Lady.’ “Anything else?”
“I will send two acolytes to the Adventurer’s Guild and have them wait for Mari or Paladin Preda.”
“Do that. Assign anyone not on active duty to gather information. Gretta, I want you to ask Jenna for a meeting.”
“Right away my Lady.” The older Priestess, bowed to the younger head priestess and left with that dismissal.
Troubling times ahead.
Eleven names identified themselves in order via the Guild communication device.
“This is Guildmaster Mari Winterlawn of Ebony City declaring a continent wide Rank -S- emergency.” She stated with force and a hint of tears. Ten voices exclaimed in shock but quieted right after. “The Mad Hermit in his B Rank trial, after he one shot a Fire Salamander, proved before the gathered audience that the mage’s ‘Blessing’s‘ supplied by the churches were indeed Blood Runes that restricted their power and abilities. Proved with no doubt to all in attendance, to all one hundred members Rank D or higher. He even removed the blood rune restrictor from a B Rank mage with an impromptu spell, casting a spell we all witnessed the blood rune die.”
“Then he gave multiple fourth tier rune removal scrolls to the audience before leaving.” The other Guildmasters exclaimed in worry and panic, questions overlapping rendering all of them incomprehensible.
“There’s more!” Shouted Mari. Quieting most of them right away followed by the few still demanding more information. Guildmaster positions were not given to just anyone. Only the most seasoned and reasonable could achieve the positions on retiring. Although disturbed, controlling their own emotions in a crisis was a skill they all mastered long ago.
“They ... My Guildies...” She started crying again after she said she wouldn’t... “They all left. Even my trusted assistants and friends left without a word to me. They left me with a dead paladin that tried to interrupt the Hermit when He was telling us about the blood runes. The Hermit sliced off both arms and knocked him out but left him alive. My guildies did terrible things to him and threw him in the Guildhouse but wouldn’t enter. All of them ... they just left without looking back.” She sniffed and wiped the tears with a sleeve.
“F•©k, someone is pounding on my door.” Complained one Guildmaster on the line, followed by another until all the Masters heard knocking. “It seems the news has spread,” said one of the more staid Masters. “I suggest we all hold a meeting of our respective guilds and tell them the truth. I fear to lose them all if we don’t. Mari dear, please initiate X-Final, leave and come to my house. You are always welcome here.”
“But X-Final...” defeated, she sniffed, “I understand Master. I will do so and leave at once. Please help our guildies. Please.” Crying a final tear for all of their losses, she disconnected.
Miserably, the former Guildmaster of Ebony City, cleaned all the offices of any and all paperwork before going to the warehouse and seeking out the rare and valuable items which would fit in her personal Bag of Holding. Within two hours she had the maximum that her bag would hold and initiated the Elemental Invite spell set for a three minute delay in her office. The escape route to the sewers in the basement of the Hall enabled the distraught woman to escape untraced from the city.
(later that evening.)
“Countess, the Portmaster is here to see you. He says its ‘Dire’.”
“Dire? What could be worse than the Adventurer’s guild closing and the temple knights getting humiliated in front of my own gates? Which were also damaged in the fight.”
“He didn’t say.” stated her secretary.
“Send him in.”
“Countess,” the obese Portmaster tiredly acknowledged, with an awkward bow, to the newest noble of Ebony City.
“How may I help you, Portmaster?” The countess didn’t stand to greet the fat man from behind her oversized desk.
“Countess Blanche, I received a visit from the Hermit of the Lake today.” The retired fisherman who was elected by the clans to act as a go between them and the powers that be, stated in anger and frustration.
“What did the Hermit want with you?”
“He said he will destroy all our boats in two days and limit our access from the shore to one hundred meters. He promised to allow two man boats after the disaster. This is a disaster.” The man repeated. “Please do something, this is our livelihood. Without our boats, we and many others will starve.”
“Thank you Portmaster. Since we now know where the mage will be and when, we can set a trap and remove him. Your help will be invaluable in this matter.”
“We will do what we can, Countess. But against a mage, there is little that we can do. We are but poor fishermen.” Seeing hope for the first time in hours, the Portmaster would take any offered chance.
“Return in the morning. I need an accounting of your boats...” she also gave other suggestions and orders to the Portmaster. Then summoned the guard captain, the Priestess who started this mess and her own commander. Everyone was soon accounted for, besides her own mage adviser who left on a personal errand two days before she arrived in this Gods’ forsaken city and hasn’t returned to her side yet.
That afternoon I returned home, igniting the beacon wards in the mountains south west of me, more than pleased at seeing all five of the girls diligently doing their exercises I assigned that morning. Giving each specific instructions for the next few days, I ate and gathered my thoughts.
Pacing the isle, I keyed the primary and secondary defensive wards before entering the lake a hundred meters south of my cabin. Bringing the white haired mage with me, with those dangling metallic beads interwoven in the mid length hair of hers with me to observe my preparations twenty feet under the water’s surface. The apprentice panicked at first, but quickly adapted to my water breathing spell after the emotional bout subsided.
“Everyone has a different method. For me, I prefer to use a staff with a known center point.” I had my dual bladed Warstaff in hand. By freezing the tips and tips only, I quickly spin the staff in a circle around the midpoint, while using A frost spell to draw my circle. “Like this.” I demonstrated the technique a few times, making ice rings under water with my spells and technique.
“You can also use a finger, a stylus or even a rock. Just observe.” Her doubtful expression spoke volumes.
I swam behind the too slim girl, reaching out lightly grasping her wand hand with my left hand on her shoulder to stabilize us. I felt her shiver with my touch. She still wasn’t all that comfortable with her tight thick bottoms that hid less than she would like or was comfortable with, and chest wrap that the girls used for swimming clothes since the second day. Not that I complained but swimming attire hadn’t been introduced to this empire yet. Their choice of swimwear also served their purpose of enticing and tantalizing me.
*Grin. Both sides benefitted from their apparel compromise.
“That wand is specifically created for training. You will have to focus harder to get it to not channel through the whole body, including the handle. Try using less mana and concern yourself about focusing through the wand, but not release. Your goal is to accumulate the power at the tip and tip only, the body is supposed to just be a conduit. Feel my mana flow through you and enter the wand.” I controlled the mana flowing through the petite girl, diverting the energy into the wand through her right hand and concentrated the trickle at the bone tip, without releasing the burst at the end. “Do you feel me restricting its motion?”
“Yeah, but I can’t do that.” The girl complained, bitterly.
“Like everything else, this takes practice. Add your mana to mine but let me control it.” The lessons continued for the next hour until she was completely worn out and I allowed her time to rest.
“Watch. This is a goal.” Using the same practice wand while she nibbled on some hardtack, I drew a three foot circle in the water after casting Still Waters. Sealing the ends of the newly created ice circle with a pinch, I stepped aside and began rotating the circle while casting Freezing Lines. After two complete revolutions of the circle it became spherical. An ice sphere filled with water.
“Did you see how I did that?”
“Take your dagger and poke it. It’s fine if you destroy the sphere.” I encouraged her to see the results of my ice manipulation, so that she had an idea of what I wanted from her.
After a few light taps with little effect, the ice mage struck harder and broke a chunk of the ice off. The sphere was less than a finger thickness and her attempts to penetrate the construct produced a fist sized hole.
“Master. What’s this for?” She had a hard time taking her eyes off of the buoyant sphere. Very little mana was used in making it. But the delicacy was beyond her and would be for some time.
“Control is everything. Remember when you threw the magic balls at the barrier? You didn’t hit every time, even though you were standing a few meters away. The greatest magic in the world is useless unless you hit your target. This exercise will help with that along with others I will teach you later.”
“One more thing. Your physical condition is not good enough for the stronger spells and rituals.” She looked downcast at that, gold and silver beaded bangs masked the side of her face nearest me, at my criticism. “Not to worry, that too will be addressed. I bet you are exhausted from swimming in place for the last hour.” That I already knew, even with her sitting on the lake floor for most of my lesson, over-exhaustion radiated from her. “Let’s go back and get something for us heartier to eat.”
After my new students and I finished dinner, I brought out a bag of testing stones that I purchased from the magic accessories shop in Ebony to test each of the girls. Not that I disbelieved what they said, but I also needed to see how the stones reacted.
We sat in our now familiar circle before the ever present cooking fire, each of my new students held the stone in an open palm while I channeled mana through them one at a time. The slim mage was strong water with a rare ice specialty and medium wind, she wasn’t blocked from any of the other elements but had little, if any, affinity towards light, dark or divination; which made sense since those three normally went hand in hand. Balanced affinities with good potential for growth. The ice specialization would be a bonus if she learned to control it.
The Scribe girl was almost pure dark with medium light, surprisingly, she had very little divination affinity, almost too little to be of any use. She also had decent wind magic but the rest of her affinities were poor, almost nonexistent. Not that she would need the other spheres once she learned better spells of her major affinity. Finding the spells would be a task for later. I had no darkness affinity and thus no spells to provide the angry girl.
The blonde knight was fire and fire only, she had no ability to ever wield any other type of magic. Not the worst thing for a knight. I’d have to see if I could get through to her so that she could use the fire for defense too, not just for attacking. Her sword would melt the first time she lost control, that wouldn’t be the only time. Knight girl would go through armor and weapons at an expensive rate in the beginning. I hoped she could learn from that experience and not get too discouraged, only time would tell.
The auburn haired warrior had medium affinity to water. Like the knight, she had zero affinities for any other magic. But water on a warrior was rare. The attacks that she could use once she grew, were minimal but the versatilities and creative uses of that element were abundant. If she persevered, she could become a monster. I would have to treat that one carefully so she grew properly.