Volume I : The Flood
Chapter 27 – Duc’s Disaster – Part 1
Everyone would be confused and distracted sometimes. It wasn’t something that called attention to itself in and of itself. But for a calm and stable person like Amon, it was an anomaly to be in such a state for a long time. He was a second-level mage that had fully mastered the basis of magic practice: meditation. To be disturbed continuously by various trivial thoughts and left unable to enter the state of serenity needed to focus on his own mind, it would be a fundamental barrier for his magic practice.
And it was a natural barrier. In a peaceful state of absolute quietness, trivial memories, tiny thoughts that had once been submerged under consciousness, would float to the mind from the deep ocean of subconsciousness. A third-level mage was one who was about to learn advanced magic, which demanded absolute serenity during meditation, a state that could not be broken by external information and trivial thoughts in mind. The test occurred when one’s spirit was tempered during the second level practice and was strong enough to keep every trivial detail of memories and thoughts in mind. Passing this test meant that he could stayed in absolute serenity despite of the strong spirit.
It was called “faith’s confirmation”, but in fact, it tested whether the practitioner was determined enough to move forward on his path. For a mage who believed in the gods, it was about his faith in his god or goddess, since in this stage one tended to be confused and think too much, questioning his god or goddess, magic, the magic practice, or even his instructor. Only when a mage restored faith in his god or goddess and in the path of magic could he find his peace of mind again and reach a deeper state of absolute serenity.
If you understand what this test was truly about, you knew the key to overcome it. It wasn’t necessary to seek peace in the gods. By its nature, it was a test about the determination of one’s belief in one’s self.
Figuring all this out, Amon sighed for the magic practitioners.The more devoted a mage was in his god or goddess, the easier he could pass the test. Meanwhile, a non-believer like him might spend his whole life stuck at this stage had he not sorted out the principles behind it.
Amon still kept his good habit of not thinking too much about problems he could not solve. He stopped thinking about how he could pass the test, or how he could solve the secret of the gods. He just tried his best to meditate, to keep serene in the face of all kinds of thoughts.
He told Lynk and Metatro to practice magic by themselves, and not to disturb him if not necessary.
Metatro had spent enough time with the cavemen. Worrying about his family, he had to return to Bablon City. Before his departure, he came to Amon to say goodbye while carrying a heavy big bag. Amon taught him the complete instructions for several synthetic primary magic and told him what the next test was about. He called for Lynk and asked them both to swear an oath.
In this continent, people believed in the effectiveness of oaths. The oath Amon asked them to take was special: they should keep the fact they learnt from him and what they learnt from him as secret, and shouldn’t use them to betray or hurt him, otherwise they could never pass “faith’s confirmation”, “devil’s temptation” or any of the other tests.
The oath was effective. Amon wasn’t sure about the coming tests, but when he realized what “faith’s confirmation” was about, he knew that one could not have a shred of hesitation or self-doubt when passing the test. And breaking an oath would leave a flaw in their mind that would stop them from passing the test.
Metatro’s bag was full of ingots, some of them Damasc iron. An advanced warrior doing the work of a drudge and smuggler, that was how he used his body arts. Indeed, it was impossible for ordinary people.
Amon asked curiously, “Aren’t you tired? How much do they cost?”
Metatro patted the bag and said, “A few dozen gold parans! These several Damasc iron ingots alone are worth five parans!” He took out three Damasc iron ingots to show off to Amon.
Amon grew up around iron ores and furnaces. His staff was made by the same kind of refined iron, which was called Damasc iron in Bablon. Metatro was boasting of its value, but Amon was a bit surprised because he found it less valuable than he thought. Three ingots carried out from the deep mountains cost merely five parans in the capital of Bablon Kingdom.
Refined iron was strictly controlled in Duc. All ingots had to be handed in to the state. The blacksmiths were paid by salary for their work, not the ingots they made. And the salary was always offset by ores. So Amon didn’t know the price of refined iron ingots.
Metatro carefully put the ingots back to the bag after the impromptu show and tell, and said to Amon, “This journey was so meaningful for me. My biggest gain was being able to learn magic from you. You are my teacher, my guide. I would like to call you God Amon, like Lynk does……You must come to Bablon City if you have time. You will receive the best of welcomes from me. I’m about to make some fortune with these darlings.”
Amon replied, “I won’t stay here forever, and I do have plans to go to Bablon. You can keep this parangon. The practice of magic demands a lot of time and energy. You may not have time to travel all day for money.”
Amon took out a parangon and threw it to Metatro. Metatro’s eyes widened and Lynk’s jaw fell. It was after a good while that Lynk broke the silence, “My god Amon! You are so generous!”
Metatro stuttered, “Oh my god! Amon, how can I receive so precious a gift!”
It’s just a parangon!, thought Amon. In Duc, a parangon could only buy two barrels of the best wine. It would be a big favor if the seller could give a goat as a bonus. These two ignoramuses had never heard of the Terroculus. Had they known how much the black parangon they had used cost, they would pass out in shock.
“It’s not exactly a gift. You took the oath and promised to welcome me in Bablon City. I taught you magic and I hope to see you focus on magic practice. You can settle your family with this parangon and practice magic wholeheartedly in the coming months. I will find you before long. You can wait in peace with it.” Amon smiled, putting the parangon in his hand.
Metatro was about to cry as he gazed at the transparent gem. He burst out in a pile of praise and promise. Amon did this for a reason. No mage in this continent had to work for a living. Nor did any of them do illegal business carrying heavy iron ingots. One needed a stable and comfortable environment to learn magic, otherwise Amon would not choose to stay with the cavemen.
It could take months for Metatro to go to and fro in the deep mountains. He gained less than ten parans each time, taking travelling expenses and costs into account. The parangon Amon gave him could be his annual income in iron smuggling.
Metatro left with many thanks, imploring him to visit. Lynk and Amon accompanied him out of the village to see him off. On the way back, Lynk looked at Amon appealingly. It was easy to tell what he was thinking. He was waiting for Amon to give him some gifts as well.
When they went back to the tribe, Amon told him a story, “Once a boy was asked by the Mayor to herd some sheep. He was paid two silver coins per month. When this boy had other occupations, the Mayor asked another boy to herd, paying him a silver coin per month. Did the Mayor owed this latter boy a silver coin if he took the job?”
Amon did not make this up. The Mayor was of course Dusti and the latter boy was Amon himself. Lynk was smart enough to catch what Amon tried to tell him. He hurriedly explained, “My dear god. I did not ask you for anything, let alone the parangons. I was just envying Metatro. You’ve taught me everything about magic, letting me have this divine power. All I shall have is my gratitude. You owe me nothing, on the contrary, I owe you too much.”
Amon smiled. He returned to his house, took out a fine brass bottle, and handed it to Lynk, “You and your fellow men respected me well. I enjoyed staying with you. I have had much of your food and wine. Now I give you this bottle. You need some fine utensils for decoration. As for parangons, you already have one on your staff. Metatro, as a sorcerer who practices magic secretly, needs parangon more. And he doesn’t have one. I saw him borrow your staff from time to time.”
Lynk took the bottle from him. This was the most elegant thing they had ever had in the tribe. Amon’s father had bought it with fifteen silver coins. Though the wine in it had been drunk by Schrodinger, the bottle itself was a piece of art. Lynk held it in the arms like a baby, and returned home happily.
In the following days, Amon did nothing but meditate. Knowing that it was a test, his spirit began to be able to descend into a deeper place in his mind, leaving the various thoughts floating above. Sitting quietly, he was able to easily sort out his thoughts. Looking back from this deep serenity, he could not only perceive his memories and thoughts, but also his body. This perception could even flow out and let him sense the outside world in an incredibly clear way.
Mages needed to communicate with the force surrounding him, and control this force. With a deeper level of serenity, one could sense the world more clearly.
Amon accidentally entered this state when meditating one night before he was aware of it. He was trying an advance magic, the Detection Eye, whose principle he had well understand, when everything in the dark night reflected into his mind like moonlight reflected in a well. He could perceive every sound outside the house and noticed even a small bug creeping in a corner of wall.
This meant that he passed the test. Being able to use at least one advanced magic was one of the criteria of a third-level mage. Although Amon did not start to learn the Detection Eye, he had been reckoning its principle by interacting the various elemental detecting magic that he could already perform. He managed to deduce the magic skill all by himself.
Amon was still refining this skill he had just discovered when he suddenly heard thunders rolling from the far sky