Volume I : The Flood
Chapter 13 – Power and Desire[2617 words]
Amon came to the cold spring at night, but he didn’t take a bath. He used to sit in the water near the edge of the pool, and soak his body and wash his face and hair. Although tonight, Crazy’Ole wanted him to dive down to the deepest parts, find the mouth of the spring, and retrieve a special object for him.
What was this object? Crazy’Ole did not mention it to him.
The cold spring was strikingly chilly. The surface of the pool was covered by a white fog, much like a hot spring. Actually, it consisted of tiny drops which were condensed due to the low temperature. An average person could only hold few seconds in this bitterly cold water. Diving down to the very depths was extremely risky, even for Amon.
Amon took a deep breath, dove into the water soundlessly and tried his best not to think of the biting cold. He concentrated on feeling the weak currents with his body and seeking for the mouth. The central area of the cold spring was not very deep, it was about twice the altitude of an adult. This meant that the water was obviously above Amon’s head.
In the deepest parts, the bitter cold pierced into his body endlessly. The warmth in his body was leaving quickly. Amon tried his best not to jerk, but all of his pores was contracting, and his every muscle tissue was trembling.
It was hard to focus in this situation, but Amon was able to make it. He felt the weak and slow flow of the seemingly quiet water, and traced it to its origin. Its source was from a pile of cobbles somewhere at the bottom of the pool. Amon could feel a more severe chill waving out from the gaps.
The difference was difficult to perceive because it was bitterly cold everywhere. Amon’s hand touched a stone which was similar to an ore. When he tried to feel the stone more carefully, his body trembled out of his control. He almost choked, the coldness which he tried to forget was awakened and chiselled into his body.
It was not that the water had turned colder, but that Amon’s body seemed to have connected to the source of the coldness, awaking and amplifying the feeling to a degree where he could not bear with it any more. He could not help to think that he was going to freeze forever in the water and that he had to leave.
This wasn’t the case, he did not freeze. A warm current arose within him, which started spreading over his body and limbs. This only happened when he had finished bathing and took a rest beside the cold spring. But now he was in the water, which meant he stayed too long and exceeded some limit. His body naturally alerted him that a power was awakening inside him.
Amon gripped the stone and pulled, but he failed to pull it out. It looked as if it just layed on the ground, but it was actually fixed by a mysterious power which glued it to the place.
Amon kept holding his breath and concentrated. In this moment, the coldness and the warm current seemed to be under his control. His whole body shook violently, and he felt suffocated. A great strength bursted out from his hand, he felt his hand loosen and the stone was pulled out from the ground. Amon jumped out of the water rapidly and dropped back into the water with the stone in his hand.
He crawled back to the land. The first thing he did was not to check the stone, but to sit down and closed his eyes. The blood in his veins was flowing fast, and each of his pores vibrated in an imperceptible way. The water covering his body vaporized soon, but the coldness in his body lasted a long time.
He had not stayed very long under the water, but felt exhausted. He stood up, moved and stretched his body for a while, like doing some strange exercises. When he regained peace, he started to scrutinize the cobble. It was very similar to an ore, but Amon had seen too many ores and he felt there was something different about this one. It looked natural, but Amon thought it was an artifact, a well-made one at that.
When Amon touched it in the water, it was extremely cold. Right now in his palm, it was just a normal stone with normal coldness. Amon felt something strange again, he put down the stone and touched the water in the cold spring. The water was still cold, but as Amon had guessed, the bitter coldness was disappearing.
Amon had accomplished Crazy’Ole’s task, but he did not stop. He dove into the water again. This time it was much simpler, he came out of the water and threw another cobble onto the land. He repeated this until he got out twenty cobbles, then came back to land.
He was almost blue with cold this time, panting and shaking like a sieve. It took him longer to feel his body again. He then felt that the moon seemed to be brighter, a warmth covered and permeated his body. He turned up his head, a parangon was floating quietly in the air, glowing mildly. A figure stood right behind him, it was Crazy’Ole.
“You are hurting yourself. I didn’t tell you to pick out all of the formation. You just needed to find the [Aquaticore] and take it with your ability.” As Crazy’Ole spoke, the parangon became brighter, the mild glow developed to a dense fog of light. This light started healing Amon’s body and imposed a pressure on him, making him unable to speak.
“But you exceeded my expectation again. My test had two purposes: First, to see if you could withstand the coldness and use your strength properly. Second, to see if your spirit and will are strong enough to feel the delicate change in that circumstance. Only when you succeed in both can you awaken the power.”
Crazy’Ole wielded his wand when he spoke. The twenty cobbles on the ground opened up like ores being extracted by the miners, showing the parangons inside. The surface of the first cobble that Amon had taken out rippled like liquid. Then, its shell melted and flew down like water, showing a deep blue parangon.
“Thirty years ago, I set up a [magical formation] with an Aquaticore and twenty parangons, making this cold spring. Now its mission ends. Those stones are not natural formed, they’re my counterfeits. I was expecting that you found the Aquaticore, but taking out all of the formation is a real surprise!”
When he finished speaking, the glowing parangon fell to his palm. There was only quiet moonlight reflected in the water. Amon stood up and picked up the blue parangon, “So, it’s called Aquaticore?”
“That’s right. Special parangons have their own names. The mages called the blue ones Aquaticore.”
Grown up in Duc, Amon perfectly knew that there were four kinds of colored parangons, but it was the first time he heard the name Aquaticore. These four special parangons were not as unique as the Gods’ Tear, but they were still rare. Even in Duc, they were only discovered several times per year, or one per several years when luck was on the ebb.
Amon’s Gods’ Tear was taken by Judah just after he extracted it. He didn’t have the time to study it. Today, it was his first time studying a special parangon carefully. He just started contemplate it for a while when he found that Crazy’Ole was leaving.
“Where are you going?”
“Sleeping! I came just here to have a look in the event that you are drowned in the pool. Now everything’s fine and I can have a good sleep.” Amon could hardly see his back now.
“How about the parangons?”
“What you took is yours. I’ve dumped them thirty years ago! Keep them, you will need them!……Come here tomorrow night, I’ll hold the rites for you, don’t miss it!” Crazy’Ole’s words wafted from distance.
Amon sat down and continued to scrutinize the blue stone. When he tried to focus his mind and feel it, he could feel a mysterious wave spread by the stone. It propagated from all directions to the spring, reviving something dormant inside him. It was like some vague aspiration, he was distracted and forgot the time……
To Amon’s surprise, the rites held by Crazy’Ole for Amon next evening was a kind of praying. But unlike the ceremonies held by the priests, the supreme sorcerer did not ask Amon to pray to a certain god or goddess. He only taught him to concentrate his mind such that the external world was between perceivable and not perceivable, to feel the delicate changes of his body and mind. He also taught him to look at his spirit, in hopes to communicate to the source of power, the force that existed in everything.
It was much harder than mages praying to a certain god. Crazy’Ole told Amon that it was not bad to pray to the gods, he started to explain with a smile, “I heard your conversation with Aristotle about the oracle the other day. If you truly understand what he said, then you can understand what I mean..…. One has to be well prepared for the awakening of power, or the rite is futile. But don’t worry, you’re the best prepared person I’ve ever seen.”
The rite opened a door for Amon and introduced an unknown world to him. Crazy’Ole asked Amon to put the Aquaticore before him to try and concentrate his spiritual power on it, and use it as a medium to learn to communicate with that unknown world. Amon felt as if he was surrounded by some kind of elusive freshness when he followed the instructions. Then he found that the fresh feeling became a cold one, like the feeling he had when he bathed in the cold spring. He caught a rhythm from the water in the spring and resonated with it. It was neither the breath nor the heart beats, but a rhythm of nature that he had never known of.
Crazy’Ole watched Amon bathe in the hazy aura from the Aquaticore. He sighed in his mind, It would be much easier with the help of the Gods’ Tear, but Aquaticore is enough. Even without any external help, you will still succeed. It’s just safer this way, and it’s helpful when you learn the magic later.
Amon was still submerged in the new world he found. So this is the so-called divine power? Or the force of the source of nature? Power inside the body? What he felt was not just the change from outside, but also an amazing relaxation and freeness from his body. He felt he had never been stronger than he was now, so strong as if he could control or overcome anything. When he concentrated and looked inside his spirit, he had captured the power.
Along with the power came the desire, it was normal. A hungry beggar might just desire a good meal, but a hungry emperor might desire a whole continent with endless wealth and authority.
Even in total calmness, lusts and wishes arose. Amon could not tell if they were from his body or his mind. He could restrain them while praying, but in daily life, he soon started feeling the troubles.
The rite was just a starting push. Crazy’Ole told him that he had to learn to control this feeling, so that he could start to learn magic and body arts, and this took time. Amon went to the spring every night and prayed devotedly for the next few days, but in day time, he was still a miner like usual.
He could not help to think about Maria, and about the events of that night. He could remember her body and her kiss, and the feeling when he put his hand on her breast, the thoughts evolved subtly. He might indulge himself in the illusion that he got the super power and beat Gabriel, kicked off Rod Drick and all his soldiers, so he could stay with Maria alone and …….
He did obtain an unprecedented power, but along with it was a change in attitude. His lust and desire would swell and soar infinitely.
Each night when he tried to concentrate his mind, looked into his spirit and reflected the outside, he returned sober, and the desire become a suffering. A voice echoed in his mind, “You have the power. Go get what you want!” And another voice told him, “How ridiculous! You are just too weak to be laughed at!” Amon’s soul stood beside them, and they were dragging him like torrents.
When Maria experienced this, she was told by Gabriel that all she needed to do was survey them quietly with a pure heart, and not to be influenced. Crazy’Ole did not tell that to Amon, he just told that it was a test which he had to face.
Apart from the disturbing soul, his body had reactions as well. He had an illusion that he was growing stronger every minute. His pace was strong and firm, every bone and muscle clattering with endless energy. He even had an impulse to punch everyone he saw.
As the son of a drunkard, he had suffered a lot for being laughed at and mocked. Now he had a desire to beat everyone that had looked down on him. There seemed to be a beast awakened in his body. Although Amon did not have a fight in the town, he did a feat that shocked all the Ducians and made them envy.
As a result, Lord Macrobe, the executive priest and clerk of the shrine passed out spitting blood in public.
The trigger of the incident was the parangons Amon had taken out from the cold spring. Amon carried them carefully with him all the time. When he passed by the shrine of Mourrin one day, he saw Shog registering the tax from the townees in front of the door with Lord Mayor beside him. An impulse from nowhere drove Amon to walk across the road and loudly say, “Lord Mayor, I want to pay my tax!” He drew everyone’s attention.
Before Dusti could react, Shog asked curiously and nervously, “What are you paying for, Amon? You did not get any ore from the mine these days.”
Extracting the parangons was just the last step of parangon mining. The ores were dug out from the mine at the edge of the mountainous plateau of Syah, which was to the north of the town. The whole process included opening new mines, quarrying, digging out ores and transporting them back to Duc, which could not be done by one individual. So the work was divided and supervised so that the ores be distributed to families according to their contribution in mining. Clerk Shog did not register any ores that were distributed to Amon’s family. He was feeling great for that, till Amon came and claimed to pay his tax in front of everybody.
Amon replied, “My dear priest and clerk. I’ve just found some ores in a stream in the Charcoal Forest, which must have been brought by the mountain torrents. They were like a gift from the gods, without the need to be mined. I brought them home, opened them and extracted some parangons. According to the laws, I have to pay tax for them.”