Volume I : The Flood
Chapter 24 – Metatro’s Ambition[2800 words]
Amon became the dearest guest of the tribe. The cavemen invited him to live in the biggest house. Even Schrodinger got a pile of hay with a leather cushion. After Amon went to rest for the night, Lynk, the headman and Metatro were holding a private conversation in the big cave of fire.
“My dear friend, I have been treating you with good food and good wine. I told my men that you are a friend of the gods. When you were in danger, I gathered my best men to rescue you as soon as possible……”
“Stop! Stop! Don’t get me into that, I’m still angry with you! Go straightforward. Do you want some help from me again?”
Lynk whispered timidly, “I’ve promised you to trade all the Damasc iron in my tribe with you, and I’ve sent my men to look for the relics you mentioned. You’ve promised me that I can get the gods’ power too once you find the relics. But it’s been years and you should know that you may never find it. You’ve taken our best ingots, but the things you’ve promised me….”
Metatro cut his speech, “Are you settling accounts with me now? I’ve brought benefits to you too. I’ve told you I’ll pay my debt next time. I always have my words.”
“No, no! I didn’t mean that. You’ve been searching the relics because you wanted to learn the divine power, didn’t you? And your friend, he knows the power……So why don’t you ask him to teach you? If he is willing to, ask for me too. We’ve made a deal, haven’t we?”
Metatro did not want to confess that he happened to meet Amon just a few hours ago. He wanted to make himself looked tough. So he paltered, “Of course, Amon will teach me. Our friendship is tested by life and death! But he has no reason to teach you.”
“Yes, I, know. So I am here asking you. Our friendship is tested by life and death too! If you can help me this time, our tribe can offer you……” He stopped here, but his implication was clear. His tribe still had much more to offer Metatro.
Metatro was trapped by himself. He knew well that in the outside world, not everyone can learn magic, only the nobles with the permission of the shrines were qualified. No mage would take the risk to teach a caveman, which violated his oath to the shrines and would get himself punished. Suddenly, he thought of why Amon travelled here and an idea occurred, “Let me tell you. Amon came here looking for one thing too. Something lost by the gods. If you can find it for him, I might be able to convince him to teach you the divine power. ”
“What is the dear emissary looking for?” asked Lynk with surprise.
“I don’t know. But I can send a message for you, telling him what you want. And you can ask him yourself.”
“Right! Let’s do it now!” Lykn stood up immediately.
“It’s midnight! Besides, are you visiting him empty-handed?”
“I know what to do. There’s still good wine in the tribe. I’ll fetch some.”
“You are always hiding the best from me. Let me go with you to see what you have.”
When they stepped out of the cave, Metatro asked half-intentionally, “Do you really think Amon is the gods’ emissary?”
Lynk gave him a foxy smile, “He’s a mage. That’s what you called him. I guess your ancestor was a mage too, wasn’t him? I understand what a mage is now. Now that my men think he is the gods’ emissary, then he is the gods’ emissary.” He added seriously after a pause, “Anyway, he does master the divine power. Nobody can deny that.”
“You don’t even know which god’s emissary he is! ”
“Better than a bonfire, isn’t it?”
“You’d better keep it between us. Your men will expel you if you say that to them.”
Amon was meditating in his house. Sometimes, he would raise his hand. A gleam appeared, then grew into a flame. He was practicing the fire magic now. He learnt fire magic much faster than water magic. Now he could already summon a flame without the help of his staff. It was an incredible feat for ordinary second-level magic practitioners.
Amon’s staff was powerful. It could largely amplify the magic effect. Learn the magic in the fastest way with the staff, then study it and practice it without any media. It had became a standard procedure for Amon. A flame was summoned from nowhere and jumped like an elf in the air under Amon’s control. It was so amusing. But Amon had to control his excitement. He was still afraid that he might burn the house.
Looking at the close-by flame, Amon’s thought went far. The tribe was situated in a very high place. If he recalled correctly, he had passed three layers of clouds. So here was the place he could stay and wait. What he was going to do was to practice primary magic and keep observing the western sky.
Amon was worrying about how to settle down before meeting the cavemen. The tribe was a good place to stay. The locals treated him well so he did not need to hunt and build an abode all by himself. That was why he played the fire magic tonight. Crazy’Ole’s advice was indeed helpful.
Metatro’s voice came from the outside, “My dear mage, are you sleeping? I’m Metatro. If you don’t mind, we have some good wine for you, and nice grilled pheasant for your cat.”
Schrodinger quickly jumped out from the hay. Amon quenched the flame and said, “Please come in. I’m not sleeping. ”
Metatro opened the door and came in with two slim cave women, one carrying a terrine, the other carrying a wooden plate, on which some juicy meat was sizzling upon a hot piece of stone. The cave women put down the food and retreated. Metatro put two stone goblets on the ground. One of them was empty. The other was filled with animal fat and had a litten grass stem in it. That was the simplest and oldest candle, the best lighting tool in the tribe.
Amon startled, “You want to drink with me in the middle of the night?”
Metatro shook his head, “No no. I’m here to offer our best wine to the gods’ emissary.” He poured a goblet of wine and handed it to Amon.
Amon could tell with a sniff that the wine was flat. Though he did not drink much, he had a drunkard father. The wines sold in Duc were all selected. Amon could tell the quality of Metatro’s wine by the smell. But it was already a good thing to be able to drink wine in the deep mountains. Amon stretched out his hand, “Thanks. Come and drink with me.”
Metatro waved his hands, “My dear mage, I have to call you my lord in the outside. How dare I drink with you?”
Amon smiled, “We are with the cavemen now. Are you going to watch me drink alone in the night?”
“As you wish!” Metatro got to the door and shouted, “Give me one more goblet!” Apparently, he wanted to drink too, otherwise he would have said “How can” instead of “How dare”.
Hearing Amon asking him to drink, Metatro felt relieved. His plan was probably going to work. This mage was just a teenager, easy-going and good-natured. He did not have the arrogance that often grew with age and status of the priests in the shrines.
He was clearly in exile. Maybe his family had lost the power, or he happened to displease some high lords. His mission was an excuse of punishment, an exclusion in disguise. How was a primary mage supposed to look for a supreme mage’s item alone in the mountains!
Metatro’s desire to learn magic was much bigger than Lynk’s, otherwise he would not have gone so far into the mountains to seek his ancestor’s relics. In most circumstances, a mage would not teach him magic. But now in this isolated village, with such a poor mage, he might have a chance to get what he had been desiring.
The two drank and chatted casually. Inadvertently, Metatro began to talk about his own story —
Metatro was born in a declined noble family. His great-grandfather was a priest in the Marduc Shrine of the Bablon City. He was a sixth-level mage, a step away from a supreme mage. But in a battle between Bablon and Hittite, Metatro’s great-grandfather was injured and had to get away from the battlefield using a precious flying scroll. The scroll did not have enough power to carry him back to Bablon safely. He died in the forests near the canyon of the Euphrate River.
Metatro’s family nearly bankrupted after his great-grandfather’s death, with a huge debt to pay. But then, a stranger came to his family and saved his great-grandmother and his grandfather. The stranger was a hunter from Assyr. He found Metatro’s great-grandfather’s body, his belongings and his final message.
The hunter buried his great-grandfather according to his final message, and brought his belongings back to Bablon City, which were so valuable that only a two-socket staff among them paid off the debt. The widow and her fatherless son thus managed to keep their manor, but the price was that Metatro’s grandfather lost the qualification to inherit the position of priest, for a ridiculous reason that he was not suitable for learning magic since he had not awakened the god-given power in the rite.
It was a poor excuse since many of the positions of priest were actually occupied by non-mages.
The life was tough and the declination of a family was full of bitter stories. Their name was forgotten by the Bablonians. Metatro even failed to inherit the noble title. People laughed at his grandfather for his weakness which had led to the fall of his family.
According to his final message passed on by the hunter, Metatro’s great-grandfather did not died in a sudden fashion. He died after earnestly praying to Marduc for seven days. In total desperation, he carved all he know about magic in a cave, hoping that someone would find his body, bury him and bring his belongings back to his home. The hunter fulfilled his wishes.
Metatro carefully observed Amon’s expression when he told the story, in which there was obvious offense to the gods, and what his great-grandfather had done clearly violated the oracles from the shrines. Metatro found that Amon listened carefully. He did not get angry, nor did he try to reprimand him. Metatro continued scrupulously —
When he was young, Metatro heard about his great-grandfather’s story from his grandfather, which was a family secret that had been forbidden to let others know. When Metatro grew up, he lost the right to learn magic, so he chose to learn body arts and became a fourth-level warrior when he was twenty.
However, Metatro did not want to submit to the fate. He was always dreaming to learn magic, which was not possible in Bablon City since no one would teach him. He was no longer a noble. Anyone who taught him magic would be punished by law. However, Metatro thought about his great-grandfather’s story. The knowledge about magic his great-grandfather had carved in the cave might be still there. If he could find that place, he might still be able to learn magic.
Enchanted by this idea, Metatro went into the mountains between Bablon and Hittite many times, in order to find his ancestor’s relics. Since he did not had a detailed map but only knew a vague range, he failed every time. Meanwhile, he became familiar with a tribe of cavemen in the mountains.
Metatro explained with a palpitating heart, “My dear mage, I regard you as my dear friend and savior of my life, thus I dare to confess such a secret to you. I am not seeking to be a sorcerer. My ancestor was a mage. I should have inherited his position and title by the laws. But since he was slandered as a deserter after dying for his country, his descendents were treated unfairly. My only goal is to bring my family’s name back to glory, and I need to prove my capability.”
He waited a good while, but did not hear a sound from Amon. Perturbed by the silence, he turned up his face, then he startled. After a few second, he revived and kneeled down, “Oh my dear lord! How can such coincidence exist? You are holding Mister Nietzsche’s token!”
Amon was holding a small golden plate with a crest on both facets inscribed in wedge and pen writings, looking like a seal or a nameplate from a shrine. Amon was sure of Metatro’s identity when he heard him talking about his family history. Metatro was the descendent of the dead mage which Crazy’Ole had found near the canyon of the Euphrate River more than a century ago. Before Crazy’Ole left her family, the widow had given him this golden plate, saying that he could come back to her family for help any time. Nietzsche had been carrying this token with him in his travelling across the continent. He gave it to Amon at the eve of Amon’s departure, telling him that it might be useful in his later adventures.
A century having passed, Amon was not sure if the widow’s promise was kept by his descendents. He decided that he would not say anything about this plate if Metatro failed to recognize it, but now it was certainly not the case. He stood up and said, “So my guess is right. You know Mister Nietzsche. But why do you kneel to me?”
“It’s what I was told to do in case I see this plate. Mister Nietzsche has saved our family. He selflessly carried my ancestor’s belongings back to Bablon City. I will treat whoever holds this plate as my family’s savior, show him my greatest respect and help him as much as I can. I’ve kept this image in mind since I was young. I even imagined meeting Mister Nietzsche or his descendents.”
Metatro’s emotion was sincere, because he knew that Nietzsche was a sorcerer who had learnt magic from his great-grandfather’s notes. He had deep impression of this token since in his childhood fantasies, Nietzsche was one of the most possible persons to teach him magic.
“You did not tell me the truth,” said Amon, “Mister Nietzsche was a sorcerer, but you said that he was a hunter.”
“That’s right.” explained Metatro, “As you know, a sorcerer always has to hide his identity, so I dared not tell you…….Mister Amon, how would you have Mister Nietzsche’s relic?”
Relic? Metatro naturally assumed that Nietzsche had passed away after more than a century. Amon should be his descendant or successor, otherwise he could not possess the plate and show it to him before he mentioned Nietzsche’s name.
“Mister Nietzsche gave it to me. What an coincidence that we can meet here! But thinking carefully, it is not a complete coincidence. You’ve been searching your ancestor’s relics for so many years……Get up Metatro, let’s drink. So you must be telling me this for a reason, aren’t you? ” Amon pulled up Metatro and sat down beside the table.
Metatro’s face flushed with excitement. He gasped the goblet and leaned forward, “Mister Nietzsche gave it to you? So he was still alive? Then he must be a great sorcerer now! Can I see him? Can you bring me to see him?”
Amon waved his hand, “Calm down, Metatro! I’m afraid that I can’t bring you to Mister Nietzsche, nor can I tell you where he is. That was not included in what you’re supposed to do with Mister Nietzsche, was it?……You haven’t answered my question. Why did you bring up your family story tonight?”
Metatro recovered from the hysteria and realized that he was supposed to help the holder of the plate rather than ask more from him. He made a deep breath and said, “Actually, I was wondering if I could learn magic from you. That’s also why I wanted to meet Mister Nietzsche……Mister Amon, are you also a…”
Amon cut off his question. “Do you want to know if I’m a sorcerer too? You have to know that although Mister Nietzsche used to be a sorcerer, it doesn’t mean that he can always just be a sorcerer. It’s not difficult for a great sorcerer to become a mage. And it’s been more than a century since he visited your family.” replied Amon evasively.