Hero the Escape
Chapter 10: Conflicts
Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth
The youngest Justiciar in Griffin Empire, knelt next to the overlarge four posted bed draped with purple sheets embroidered with golden griffins. “Pardon the intrusion, Empress.”
The middle aged blonde woman viewed her servant through the apex of her magical bracelet which granted Truesight. “What brings you to my chambers at this hour, Justiciar Dana Hershim?” Empress Lara Nori wasn’t worried about betrayal, Justiciars didn’t become who they were for any reason other than to serve the Empire and its laws.
“The priestesses of Solara along with their followers will act to suppress the Hermit mage while the rest of the confederation will begin their assault on the tower at daybreak in three days at the first of the month.” The Justiciar reported.
“I know of this.” Calmly, the Empress sipped her tea as if they weren’t discussing a war between the greatest powers in her land.
“Yolanda agreed to assist Priestess Kara with the attack on the hermit in exchange of half of the spoils. She will not be there to assist the defense of the White Tower and it will assuredly fall.” The Elemental Monk remained keeling with her bowed head waiting for her liege’s next question.
“Will the Traitorous Archmage be successful Justiciar Hershim?”
“No, Your Majesty. She won’t even succeed in harming any of the Hermit’s students. Even if the alliance does succeed in killing the mage, I cannot imagine a scenario where the priestess of Solara do not turn on Yolanda. Unless both sides agreed to a Geas of Oath before the attack. That in itself is against the Agreements of the current Confederation.”
“Justiciar, in your estimation, what would be needed for the Church of Solara and the Traitor to be successful in killing the Hermit?”
“Time. The number of troops needed, could not arrive in time. Nor is the matter of crossing kilos of open water a small barrier to dismiss. I’ve seen the power of his wards. That little island of his would take a major magic offensive in order to breach.”
“Dana, what is the possibility of Priestess Kara using the Hermit to kill Yolanda?” called out a voice from across the Empress’s bedroom.
“Low, Duchess Emmels, at least not as the main objective. The knowledge that the churches have placed the forbidden Blood Runes on all magicians and others with limited magical knowledge has spread throughout the Empire. It’s a given that the leaders of the mage guild had foreknowledge and their acceptance.”
“What would it take for you to convince the Hermit to come to our aid against the Churches and protect the White Tower?” the Duchess continued, unworried about interrupting their Empress.
“He was unhappy about the spying of the Tower for the two years. Priestess Sophie admitted that her temple received two young men with their eyes burned out but hadn’t healed them. Garrus, Yolanda’s aid, removed them from the recovery hall before she had a chance at healing the pair. The possibility of the observation by divination is a certainty and that the Archmage ordered it. If we informed the Hermit of this, I doubt that she would survive the encounter tomorrow morning when the Hermit attacks Ebony City’s wharves. But I do not believe that he would come to the mainland to assist the White Tower.”
“In essence, you do not believe that he will come to Our aid, even if We ask?” clarified the Empress.
“No, Your Majesty. There is no incentive for him, He, who desires peace. If you remember from the report, he had spent the last two years with little human contact. And only that of the orcs across South Lake.”
“What are the chances of the Hermit defeating both forces allied against him in the upcoming days?”
“It all depends on how far he decides to go. If he fully commits, which I think is unlikely given his prior behavior, then they are doomed and maybe most of Ebony City along with them. If not, it will be a long bloody battle. If the attack moves to his island, then it depends on how long his wards hold out against the invaders. If he can Summon a being such as the one when he moved his cottage to the island, then both the Coalition and Yolanda have no chance. If that does happen and he presses the counter attack, Ebony City will be destroyed also.” Along with the south western part of the empire. But she held off from mentioning that to her Empress.
“What if we sent reinforcements to his aid against the followers of Solara?”
“Your Majesty, the only forces with the speed and might to assist are the Griffin Corps, as you know, those two are already in opposition.”
“That’s not completely correct, Dana. There is another group that can make it in time...” brought up the Duchess.
“Priestess Kara, he will be bringing the seas with him. Exclaimed the junior priestess of Solara fearfully, waking up from her divination induced trance.
“Thank you, child. You may rest now.”
“Not a surprise, is it? He is an Elementalist, and we know he travels inside of his summoning’s.” noted the older Mage, to her tenuous ally.
“It’s always good to have confirmation. We of the Sun have limited ability with what happens below the waves.”
“Let’s say I am not shocked. What can you do?” snapped the sarcastic former Arch Mage.
“Once inside the bay, my Sisters can set up a barrier to prevent the mage from escaping. We can draw the barrier to the shore where we will further restrict his powers. That is when you need to attack, Yolanda.”
Only two of the larger fisher boats sailed this morning. Less than I expected. I wondered what trap they had planned for me. Two days was enough to set a decent one, but not fatal from my readings and Polus’ conversations regarding the abilities of the local Churches, even if they all allied against me, which Polus deemed unlikely. That meant a surprise second force.
Releasing the small water Elemental, I worked to widen the underwater spring that I had found last year. Once clear of obstructions, I aided it in its further expansion. The massive underground lake dwarfed the one above it. But it was deep below the bedrock. Widening the tunnel took time and I only had two hours before sunrise.
The ground shook lightly for ten seconds. “Earthquake?” questioned one of the Priestesses next to Kara two hours before dawn.
“There shouldn’t be. No one Foretold of one.” A third replied. The combined forces hidden in the otherwise empty port quarter and the rest of Ebony city, those that were awake, shifted uneasily. Advice was sought from others and a second Divination was cast at the expense of the young priestess. Besides even a greater amount of generated fear from the nearly bald girl, she repeated the exact same warning before collapsing with blood leaking from her tear ducts. The twenty five year old conscriptee, had to be restrained and drugged to keep from trying to run away. Her handlers, unsettled by the acolyte’s extreme thrashing, nervously tried to get one of the senior priestess’ attention to see to their charge. By the time one gave her the attention she deserved, it was too late.
“This is foolishness, that that woman would risk our neutrality over this.”
“We serve The Empress’ command. Besides, don’t tell me you don’t want a crack at Kara.”
“Ha. Maybe I do. Yet I still say that if we were sent anywhere, the Tower would be a better show.”
“That may be, Senior Katrina. But It’s Her will. She believes that he will repay the favor and come to their aid at our request. I was tasked of this by Her Majesty, at Duchess of Marigold’s urging.”
“Young Dana do you believe he can prevent the destruction of the White Tower?”
“If we can convince him, probably. Yolanda is not his match.”
“It would be a prettier view if the lake was further to the east.” Complained a fourth. The small group seated on one of the turrets of the wall closest to the port overlooked the piers and port district. The guards normally assigned to this section of the wall, were all unwillingly napping a few feet away. In a heap.
“Is it too early for tea and muffins?”
A single tentacle emerged followed by another and another. The Great Maw was terrifying as ever. “Wait here, it won’t be long, follow me when I signal. Then you can eat to your heart’s content.”
“He entered the bay, Priestess.”
“Good, begin the encircling, make sure everyone is ready for anything. Where is that blasted mage?”
“That blasted mage is behind you.” Replied a complacent Archmage. “This won’t be easy as you think, he summoned aid.”
“What is it?”
“Some big, ugly sea monster. Never seen it’s like, it’s pretty big though.” the relaxed smile behind the selfish mage hid the greedy and malicious knowledge from her reluctant allies. That a great deal more of the priestess’s forces would be killed today than they could believe made the mage smile to herself.
Few of the coalition priestesses noticed the word big was used twice.
My wards set, I swam over the lake’s floor and towards the central pier.
The medium Elemental summons sapped most of my unreserved mana. I ordered the undetectable water creature to start attacking the craft on the north side of the port, while I did the same at the south side.
The expected barrier of the clergy sedately drew in and encircled me guiding me to the shore. I called out to Squueerringereee to aid me. He said he was hungry, not that the Elemental Prince was not ever hungry. Let him eat.
Willingly, I walked ashore pretending that their net drew me. The arrayed forces started casting spells and curses, even before my shoulders cleared the water, clashing against my defenses to no effect, yet.
“All of you for me? I should be flattered. But I am not.” I began the preparations of casting Greatest Stonewall. Expensive but I felt worth it. The commons in Ebony City did not deserve to be eaten by the Prince.
“What spell is that?”
“Stonewall. An enhanced version, I think. I’ve never seen it cast that way. All it will do is use up more of his mana.” Explained the senior mage.
“Why aren’t you helping?”
“Too early yet. Don’t worry, I will strike when the time is right. I want him more than you do.”
“What was that? Where did Lori and Johann go?”
“There! Gods, its huge!” Tentacles started coming from the bay, snatching the floating duos from above the water, whose task it was to corral the Hermit mage forcing him ashore. More and more started disappearing before the floating priestess and paladins noticed, by then it was too late.
The allied forces started calling out to their Gods at the sea monster whose body broke the surface of the bay’s water and stretched out it’s ‘arms’ to feed on the morsels on land. With the arrival of the giant Elemental, pressure was lessened but not halted on the hermit’s magical protections. Finishing his spell, a giant wall crashed through the ground behind the assembled force in an earsplitting crash of stone against stone.
I stood aside, as the Lord of the Deep ate and terrorized the men and women, Priests, Priestess and Paladins of the combined faiths arrayed before me. There had to be a special reserve force. I needed for them to show themselves before my next move.
The Wall was a thoughtful added touch, I thought. The forty meter tentacles crushed, grabbed, and knocked aside all that got near. The damage he received was soon replaced by new appendages. I checked my wards guarding my isle, the girls were still safe.
The attacks against me had stopped completely, the clergy began focusing solely on the Prince. That meant their hidden attackers would strike soon or flee. I was betting on striking.
“Young Dana, is there something you forgot to tell us?” Demanded the oldest in irritation. Who, she was irritated with? Not even Gretchen was sure of at the moment.
“I did my best to warn everyone. He did summon the Lord of the Forest. I made sure that was mentioned SIX times in my report.”
“Would that make that creature, a Lord of the Sea?”
“That would be my guess. I think it’s time to stop Yolanda, she has gone far enough. Are any of you coming?” A chorus of three unenthusiastic ‘Yes’s, the four Elemental Monks, slash Justiciars, casually hopped down from the three meter high walls, skipped over the newly formed broad, three meter high Wall of Stone and into the fray. They had long since spotted the leaders of the assault and knew where to strike.
Four visitors arrived. All in clean white tabards emblazoned with gold royal griffins causing me concern. If all four were at least as strong as Justiciar Dana. My fight just became significantly more difficult.
Weaving through the tentacles as if they were in slow motion, they headed off to the north where a larger congregation of Priestesses were successfully fending off the sea monster, blasting the approaching tentacles to pieces.
Four paladins supported by two Priestesses in red robes charged me in a flying horseless chariot. Where that came from, I had no clue. It must have been camouflaged by one of the support spells.
Surprisingly, the two Priestess jumped off wielding a pair of short swords each, while the chariot veered off harmlessly. Calling out their goddess’s name they engaged me. Very skillfully. What was even more interesting was how well the two worked in tandem.
Short swords versus staff wasn’t the best match up for them. Still they lasted longer than any human in the last five years.
Wait, they aren’t trying to kill me. Those two were treating this as if was a full strength, full speed, spar.
After two full minutes of furious engagement, I took a single step backwards and raised my staff, signaling for a break. The pair of priestesses followed suit, not even sweating, nor had they used any detectable magic.
“I’m sorry, I no longer have a name to give.” After taking a sip from my flask. “May I have yours?” The three of us ignored the carnage around us, tentacles and spells seemingly everywhere but our specific location. They too sipped from their flasks while catching their breaths.
“Cara, that’s Sophie. When you get a chance, Mother would like some of your time. She also sends a message: “Can you please show restraint for our stupid neighboring sisters and allow your allies to deal with Yolanda?”
Looking past the two before me, the shore and even into the community itself, blood and destruction abounded. In fact, no one had directed a serious attack against me for minutes.
I nodded. Hopefully that was more than enough. Turning and reentering the chill lake, I sent a mental demand to my erstwhile ally to return home. After some haggling for the early return. He agreed. I did make good on my promise. The two boats at sea were sunk leaving the crew to sink or swim on their own endeavors.
Three of the four looked down at the twisted bloody body of the demon masquerading as the Archmage, who had already escaped before the small group even attacked. The fourth was wading through the idiotically loyal Paladins of the Faith pathetically trying to prevent Justiciar Hershim from seeking out the coalition’s leader.
“She looks angry.”
“Is it that time of the month for her?”
“Do you think we should, you know, stop her?”
“Let me check the articles. Give me a few hours it should be here somewhere.”
“I could use some tea.”
The nine paladins, all in varying states of ... what’s a good word for beaten senseless? ... Lay on the ground moaning in pain, listened in horror at the small group of elderly women discussing the battle with irreverence.
The beach quieted with the sudden disappearance of the sea monster, followed by the slow collapsing of the postmaster’s office. The newly erected wall, would remain for millennia, a tunnel would be needed for the port to be reconnected to the rest of the city.
“I always did say a good spanking conveys the right message.”
“I don’t think I ever saw a high priestess get spanked before. Is that listed in one of the tenants or articles?”
“Martha. I think you need to get out more.”
“I still want some tea. You there. Go make us tea and quit moaning. Your left leg still works.”
“Tea does sound good.”
“I prefer black tea. Hop young man. Oh, he hops pretty well.”
“I’ve never seen a Paladin of the Faith get spanked, in full armor none the less.”
“I think she is denting his armor. That’ll be expensive to fix.”
“How did she get the others to line up like that?”
“Definite anger issues ... Why did she glare at me? I was just noting what I saw.”
“Young Dana is still going to want to visit him after this, isn’t she? Don’t you think she is too old for him? ... She glared at me too. I agree with you Sister. Definite anger issues.”
“Well what happened?” Inquired the woman on the throne in purple and gold.
“One sided slaughter. The Justiciars arrived at the end and vanquished Yolanda’s double. I’m not sure but it looks like Kassandra’s Sisters joined in at the last minute too.”
“I thought you said that they were neutral and would not get involved.”
“That was my assessment, your Majesty.” Declared Duchess Emmell from the other side of the throne.
“Continue your report, Priestess Rol.”
“Yes, your Majesty. The Hermit, summoned a great beast from the seas. The coalition’s forces had no chance and were only able to damage its appendages with concentrated spells.”
“At least seventy percent of the collation, dead or wounded.” The small group of nobles who ran the Empire were stunned at the number, supposedly over two hundred, priestesses, paladins and magical layfolk were involved in the attack.
“And the Hermit?”
“Another Margret Jonge. Contact Justiciar Hershim. Promise the Hermit anything he wants, to assist the white tower. Do they have a new Tower Master yet?”
“No, Your Majesty. These things take months.”
“Tell them if they don’t have a new Tower Master by tonight, I will rescind their charter.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Replied the duchess to the right, who immediately left the audience chamber.
“Welcome back Master. How did it go?” asked the little rogue.
“As expected, they had an ambush set up. I’d get to your lessons. When I left a group of Justiciars were following me with their eyes. Expect visitors soon.”
“A. Group. of. Justiciars??” Looks like the warrior learned teleportation, she certainly disappeared quickly. Hmm. The little rogue did too when I wasn’t looking. The blonde knight was the only one still in sight after the green eyed warrior asked for clarification before vanishing suddenly. And that was because she tripped on a snare one of her fellow students left behind.
“Oh good, you can help make tea for my guests. Once you free yourself.” I tried not to mock the young knight. The rest would do that later after the Monks left. Since she failed to escape in a timely manner. I felt a punishment was in order. Even while panicking, they need to learn to watch out for traps and ambushes.
“Now, now, no swearing.”
“I’ll kill that blue haired bitch later.”
“Killing might be a little harsh. Don’t you think?”
“You haven’t met Justiciar Martha, or worse, Justiciar Seraphina.” moaned the tall blonde who was set up by her fellow student.
“You mean those four there? I’d hurry and get that fire started if I were you.”
Ten minutes later, four older women, two were decades older than the other two monks, calmly walked across the lake from the nearest shore. The youngest was definitely Justiciar Hershim. They paused ten meters from the island’s eastern shore allowing Dana to ask permission for her and her ‘Sisters’ to visit. A decidedly different relationship than I was used to on my old world.
“Please do, I have tasked one of the students to start the water for tea.”
“About time, that clumsy paladin, spilled ours. He needs hopping practice.” not having a clue of what the aged Elemental Monk was referring to, I glossed over her comment.
“I’m called Hermit or the Mad Hermit, your choice.” I offered politely as I led my guests to the fire. When dealing with Elemental monks, politeness was always the way to go. Regardless of the topic or how angry one was.
“This boy has some manners. Better than those children back there.” replied the tallest of the elder Justiciars.
Once settled and tea was passed around. I took my cues from Dana, the obvious youngster of the four, but apparently on my side-ish. Just as I was about to open the dialog, “You girl. Come here.” the show got interesting.
“Yes, Justiciar?” the knight became timid in front of her elders. Or maybe it was just those specific four...
“Hmm ... Turn around ... Good hips. Generous breasts. Strong legs. Face isn’t bad either. You’re the exchequer’s brat, aren’t you? The one that is always getting in fights.”
“That was years ago, Justiciar Seraphina.” Knight girl nervously defended herself, not at all liking the way the conversation started.
“Those hips don’t lie. You should be good for three or four, maybe even five if you start soon. That boy there looks like he has good stuff. When can we expect the first brat?”
“Sister. Our host is the child’s new Master. Give them time. A year for her to learn what is needful is plenty of time. We can attend the Joining next spring.” the wispy haired one patted her Sister on the hand in consolation. Dana restrained her mirth. At whose expense, I wasn’t sure. Certainly not the blonde knight apprentice who was trembling in fright and dismay.
Justiciars seemed to carry more authority here than in my previous world. “You can go, but I want to see all of you before our guests leave.”
“Yes, master...” was heard from her back as the girl left under full steam. She would need to work on her teleportation. It was definitely not as developed as the rest of my students.
“Damn fine hips on that girl. Don’t you agree Hermit?”
“She is still a bit stiff. Her mind needs more flexibility too. It’s still early and she is young. I have some hope.”
“And the rest?” asked the quiet one who was carrying a very large tome.
“I worry about one, one has great potential, one shows promise and one will surprise you in a few years.”
A set of very clear hazel eyes bore into my soul. Or at least tried to. “Such a terrifying life you led.” after that pronouncement, the Monk opened her tome and started reading from page one. Again, I believed.
“How can I help you ladies?”
Unrefined cackling came from the one to the end who was nibbling on crackers and not sharing. “He called us ‘ladies’...”
“I’m here to ask for your help. Those three are just tagging along to see what the ‘fuss is about’.” replied Dana. Of the four, she was the only one with a few drops of blood on her tabard.
“My help?” I frowned. I had no interest in helping their empire.
“Yes, yours. The White Tower will be attacked and overrun, probably destroyed tomorrow by a large coalition of Churches.”
“Why ask for my help. Isn’t that an internal issue?”
“Yolanda betraying the Guild and the Empress, left a hole in its defenses. As you know, she was the Archmage responsible for the Empire’s magical defenses, starting with the Guild and the Tower.
“You four seem capable. Why not handle it yourselves?”
“Politics, we, as a group need to be neutral.”
“Even if one side is mobilizing an army to take out a guild in your own Empire? Isn’t that pushing neutrality too far?”
“We are the judges, if we get involved in conflicts, then it sets a bad precedent. Please aid us in the time of our need. If the mages fall here it will cause a chain reaction continent wide.”
“I have students that you corralled me into, remember? Are they less deserving to be cared for?”
“I will take over your teaching of them until the matter is settled in the capitol.”
“Not good enough.”
“What is your price Hermit?”
“Five water spells first through third rank. Five fire first and second rank. Five dark first through third rank, five light first and second rank, five Divination first rank, five wind spells first and second rank and five earth first and second rank spells. And one of you come with me.”
“I don’t know if we ca...”
“Agreed, Mage.” interrupted the one with the tome.
“Martha, I am not sure about the Divination spells.”
“I have them, child.” it was funny hearing someone call a fifty to sixty year old woman, ‘child’, even if she looked and acted decades younger.
“Then we accept your deal,”
“Up to one month. Any longer, then it will be your problem.”
“Agreed.” I didn’t have any crackers for the fourth, still unnamed Justiciar but I did bring out some smoked venison. Dana and I discussed the early training plan I had set up for the girls while the other three listened in. I tried not to think of, or remember doing the same before my elders when I was young ... To little avail.