Prologue : Saint Maria
Chapter 8 – Gabriel’s Power[2088 words]
The spike of silver light struck the pass between the two dunes like a lightning bolt under the sun, precisely on the route the convoy would’ve taken. Rod Drick’s heart missed a beat. Seeing the silver light, he realized that Gabriel was one of the top warriors on this continent, a great warrior that had at least reached the [seventh level] of the body arts
The distance between the first carriage and the col was about 70 paces. Rod Drick’s attack could hardly cause any damage to objects that far. He had even failed to notice any danger at such a distance.
Gabriel did not care about what Rod Drick thought. In fact, she had found signs of danger even further back, but she chose to wait till the target entered the range of her full power attack.
The spike of silver light drilled a large hole between the dunes. As the road collapsed, several barbed iron chains were blown into the sky. It was a pitfall. The carriage that went over it would drop in and block the caravan behind. Two clouds of dust broke out and two warriors jumped out from the ground next to the pit. Both of them held a shield and a poleaxe. But they were quite awkward because of the collapse of the trap.
Fighting with a poleaxe in one hand needed outstanding strength and dexterity. They were not ordinary warriors. These two men covered their faces with yellow scarfs and wore yellow clothes. They had been hiding silently under the burning sand for hours before the caravan arrived. If Rod Drick’s carriage had fallen into the pit, the two axes would’ve swiftly brought him his eternal rest.
Gabriel was far from done. She waved her wrist gracefully in the air and sent out two more flashes of light towards both dunes. They skimmed the ground and left a dust filled wake. Two groups of yellow figures were forced from cover, jumping out of the way. More chains were sliced to shreds along with them. Some of the ambushers were freely bleeding.
But all of them were wrapped in silence. From their behavior, these couldn’t be bandits, but well trained soldiers. Their trap and ambush were fully exposed now. A pitfall trap in a bottleneck between two dunes right before a downhill slope. The two ambush groups on either sides, although unarmored, had irons chains and sharp machetes. The machetes were common weapons of the Assyr cavalry, usually used in charges, but equally powerful in melee combat.
Rod Drick had regained his cool from the shock and roared out orders to his men. The escort consisted of 60 soldiers in 5 teams, with 12 in each team. Two of them were riders and others were on foot. The strongest team on foot guarded on two sides of Maria’s carriage and the other two screened the rear of the caravan and helped keep the merchants in order. The two teams of riders went in front of the caravan and lined up for the battle. The front line raised their shields and the rear line raised their javelins.
But they could not throw, because Gabriel had just flown over them and charged the enemies, who responded in kind with their machetes. Screams finally appeared along with flying limbs, heads and the clash of weapons. The ground was dyed by blood. The machetes hit Gabriel’s sword, shield and even armor, but nothing could stop her from advancing. Everything in front of her was chopped apart.
Rod Drick could hardly believe his eyes. He was a sixth-level warrior, which meant he was among the strongest advanced warriors. But as the governor and lord of state Cape, he had never seen a charge like this. Gabriel’s skill made her unstoppable. Simply seeing it made Rod Drick’s blood boil.
He finally understood why the Isis Shrine of Memfis had sent only one warrior to protect Maria. No ordinary bandit could counter her in any circumstance. Rod Drick could not stop from thinking, had Gabriel been sent not to protect Maria but to kill her, could he and his men save Maria from her attack? Not likely even with the help of primary mages.
It was beyond his highest expectation that Isis Shrine could have sent such a warrior for Maria. Now Rod Drick thought the Isis Shrine was wrong in another way: a great warrior like her should at least be escorted with a mage and two followers. How could they let her act alone?
Gabriel rushed the enemies alone. She would be in danger if there were mages of a decent caliber ambushing her. Although there could not be any good mage in ordinary bandit groups, the enemy today were not bandits either.
Rod Drick could not allow this to happen. He rushed out, attempting to follow Gabriel with his two team leaders. But Gabriel’s charge was too fast, he could not even catch up with the Gabriel who slaughtered all in her path.
Gabriel was just a dozen paces away with the pitfall, when she cut down the last of the machete wielding warriors. A line of bodies lay behind her, and the two warriors with poleaxes awaited her in front. They seemed to be the strongest enemies.
Gabriel seemed to be attracted by these two warriors when all of a sudden, two men jumped out from the ground on her left and right, roaring like beasts. A third man was also hidden behind one of the two, but the two in front were too large. The third man, appearing in silence, was like a wisp of smoke. He hid the shadow of the large man on the left, exerting some kind of [stealth magic].
The size of parangons was also the unit of length. The diameter of a parangon was called an inch and twelve inches made a foot. The two men in the front were at least ten feet tall. They looked like two small hills with arms bigger than an ordinary man’s leg. Rod Drick knew them. They were the giants who lived in the mountains to the east of Assyr.
The giants lived on the cold plateau. Legends said that they were the descendents of the Titans. But they were not unreasonably huge. They could also learn the body arts and had extraordinary strength. All the kingdoms recruited them to the army and trained them to be heavily armoured warriors to charge with huge hammers and axes in the front line of battles.
Gabriel could only reach their chests. They both wielded a maul and struck it on her from left and right. There was nearly no time for Gabriel to react.
And the third man in the shadow was indeed the mage. He used the stealth magic to hide the two giants and himself till the best timing to give her a killing hit. Their position was deliberately chosen. If the first carriage had fallen in the pit, they would have been right next to the second carriage and could have smashed it to pieces. Now they were going to smash Gabriel.
Gabriel had no time to dodge. The mauls cut off any route to escape. The two team leaders had thrown their javelins at the giants, and Rod Drick also threw his sword, but it couldn’t possibly reach there in time. Covered with a light silver mist, the sword flew towards the third man.
With a deafening clunk, the shield in Gabriel’s left hand raised and bore the brunt from the maul from the left. The impact drove her straight into the sand, burying her legs to the knees. The sword in her right hand blocked the other maul. The silver sword, while appearing so fragile that it would break with the slightest blow, surprisingly just deformed from the blow. Gabriel muttered several words under her breath, and a magical wave radiated out from the two parangons on the crossguard, restoring the sword. A spatial distortion deflected the maul, and the giant lost his balance.
This was magic, an advanced, divine magic! As a warrior, it was very difficult to make progress in learning the magic. Rod Drick had never heard of any great warrior mastering advanced magic as Gabriel did. Though she cast it with the help of her parangon-powered sword, it was still an amazing feat.
With a clatter and a cry of pain, the giant’s left shoulder was dislocated. His hands lost control and the maul hit the sand. At this moment, the two javelins arrived. The one on the right seemed to be trapped by the thick air, veering and hitting the ground inches away from its intended target. The other barely pierced through the giant’s leg. A full strength attack from a third level warrior, that could impale several bulls only pierced an inch through the giant’s leg. Nevertheless, combined with the shock of hitting the shield which numbed the giant’s limbs, the pain from his leg sent him down on one knee.
Gabriel pulled her legs out of the sand and rushed forward again. Her shield sparked as it dragged against the haul. The pit and cracks mended a bit then stopped. The magic on the shield could only restore a small part of the damage brought by the maul.
Gabriel took a step forward and wielded her shield like an axe. The edge of the shield cut deep into the chest of the giant on the left. The giant groaned, dropped the maul and tried to push the shield away. Gabriel advanced, cutting his chest open with the shield, then dropping it. She turned around and swung her sword, a flash of silver light bisecting the giant on the right.
All these happened in a few seconds. The mage behind the giant was still preparing his next magic. Rod Drick’s sword, though slowed and slightly deflected, pinned the mage’s foot to the ground. The mage howled in pain, but was greeted next by the sight of the heavens and earth spinning as another silver flash chopped off his head, dyeing the air and sand with a crimson flower.
He was an advanced mage of the fifth level. But luck was not with him today. In order to stay undetected, he had restrained himself from casting anything before Gabriel had approached him. When the giant in front of him could not protect him any more, his fate was determined.
Gabriel did not pay attention to the giant cut by her shield. She rushed forward with her sword towards the last two enemies with poleaxes. They had appeared to be confident, but shocked by their fellows’ fast collapse. Before they could decide to flee, Gabriel’s attack had arrived.
It was a matter of life and death for them now. With a cry, they swung their poleaxes. A light fog coated their blades as the poleaxes cleaved down at Gabriel from either side. Gabriel crouched and abruptly accelerated, passing through the gap below the axe and slammed into the warrior on the left like a lion.
Her shoulder pad hit his shield, forcing it backward till it cracked his breastplate and his ribs. Gabriel immediately switched targets, lunging at the one on the right, her sword seeking his heart.
The poleaxe was too unwieldy in such close quarters. Left with no time, the man barely raised his shield in time, but to no avail. A silver flash lanced through the shield, and the sword penetrated his heart through his cuirass. The vibrations from the sword had annihilated his heart in an instant, and Gabriel smoothly pulled her sword out.
The sword was intact, without the slightest hint of blood on it. Her shoulder pad was slowly mending from several small cracks. The midday sunshine shone on her golden hair and her perfect face. There was no enemy alive behind her.
Rod Drick and his two team leaders stood beside the bodies of the giants and watched Gabriel with admiration.
Far ahead of them hid a group of people in the shadow of rocks beside the hill. They seemed to be shocked by the battle that had just finished. Three men stood up. The one in the middle was the governor of the state of Syah, Lord Fermien Schmul. On his left was Mist Morton, quaestor of Syah and Schmul’s most trusted lieutenant. Lastly, on the right was Cosman, the high priest and mage of the Enlil Shrine.