Volume I : The Flood
Chapter 27 – Duc’s Disaster – Part 2
The disaster had come to Duc right after Amon had left. The third day after Amon’s departure, the first teenager death occurred in town. It was Maqi’s son. He was fourteen years old, the same as Amon. In the following months, three more boys died consecutively. The youngest was twelve, the oldest was fifteen.
Shog, the priest and medicine man of Duc, could do nothing, since all these boys died nigh instantly. Examining the bodies by curing magic, Shog found some traces in the muscles and blood vessels indicating that they had received strong impacts that had surpassed their endurance. He reckoned that it was a result of practicing the technique of Duc in secret.
The technique of Duc seemed to be simple to start, but what it required in strength and bodily endurance largely exceeded the limit of underage boys. The hidden damage would accumulate, and break out once it had reached a certain degree, by which time it was too late. Aristotle had explained to Amon the spirit and the original intent of the oracle forbidding underage children from learning the technique. Although he didn’t know that the side effect of practicing it too early could be fatal, he was right about the oracle protecting the inhabitants.
But Shog and Dusti could not punish these families. The boys were already dead. It didn’t make sense to investigate whether they had had the approval from the goddess. Besides, since the families would never admit it, there would be no evidence. In fact, there were many more families that were doing it. Everybody knew what was going on, but nobody was willing to discuss it.
If we had to find a reason, it might trace back to Amon.
Amon, a fourteen-year-old boy, mastered the technique of Duc perfectly, successfully extracting parangons by opening the ores, and having the luck to obtain so many of them, including a blue one that even Lord Microbe envied. If Amon could do it, why couldn’t their own sons?
The boys in Duc were used to blowing the bellows and carrying ores for their fathers. They were strong as well. Amon didn’t seem to be the strongest boy in town. He was just the son of an old drunkard, forced to carry the family’s burden earlier than them. They didn’t know about Amon’s two years of training in the cold spring.
Not all of the boys died; some succeeded by luck, some just couldn’t learn it. Those who managed to master the technique wouldn’t admit it. The parangons couldn’t tell people who had extracted them.
There was only a thin line that separated innocence and ignorance. Many even expected their children to extract a special parangon like Amon did. In the rumors circulating among the Ducians, Amon might have extracted a parangon called Gods’ Tear, which was unique in the world.
The lord from the capital had announced that the miner who had extracted a Gods’ Tear would receive the highest prize from the kingdom, but anyone who kept it to himself would receive the most severe punishment.
None of the Ducians had heard of it before the announcement except Crazy’Ole, Dusti, Shog and Amon. They don’t know what kind of parangon it was. Conjectures spread like wildfire, like that it was a kind of parangon that could only be extracted by children, since no one had ever found one in the past centuries except Amon.
This conjecture was widespread in Duc. People gossiped about it, but never discussed it openly, resulting in the series of tragedies.
The oracle from Mourrin, patron of Duc, existed in name only. People seemed to pay more respect to their goddess, and to Priest Shog. Many dared not to even look at him.
Crazy’Ole was even crazier than before, often waving his cane and shouting to himself in front of the shrine, “This place is hated by the god! It is going to be punished! The god is so cruel! He has no mercy! But people! What are you doing here, people?!”
No one cared about this nonsense. The Ducians just avoided him. Dusti and Shog didn’t know how to deal with him. After all, he was a crazy old man. But the tragedy in Duc was going on, another couple of boys died with no sign.
Weren’t the Ducians aware that the technique might not be suitable for underage kids? More or less, they knew it. But since there were children who succeeded, not just Amon, the tragic losses were regarded as mere bad luck. Prudent families would mind their children to be cautious and stopped forcing them when they felt something wrong. But none of them would give up training altogether.
How many of the underage Ducians were learning the technique? Everyone over ten years old! Every family did this, nobody saw a reason not to. As time went by, the issue became half open. The Ducians were just taking care not to leave any evidence or to be caught by Mayor Dusti or Priest Shog.
The disaster of Duc was unstoppable. The town had only over two thousand inhabitants, and since the technique was passed down from generation to generation in every family, everyone was involved.
Summer arrived. The midsummer heat in this year was particularly unbearable. Most Ducians were forced to sleep outside their rooms, in the courtyard or in the square. One night, they all felt traces of chilliness along with moisture in their dreams. When they woke up, they found, to their surprise, slanting rain drizzling from the sky.
The number of rainy days in Duc in a year could be counted on one hand. The summer was traditionally a dry season. Cheers broke out in backyards and in the streets.
The rain didn’t stop after sunrise, but became heavier. Raindrops came in curtains, soaking the dry land. The clouds started to gather in the sky, covering the Charcoal Forest and the Syah desert. Jubilant Ducians gathered in the shrine of Mourrin to praise the goddess. Wild cheers were everywhere. The heavy rain lasted all day.
A heavy rain like this could drench the poor land and desert. Oases might appear after the rain stopped and feed more herds. This had happened before, but was still rare. The heavy rain was often regarded as a precious gift from the goddess.
The goddess seemed to have heard the prayers from the Ducians. The heavy rain lasted three days and showed no sign of stopping. Some started to panic because it was something that had never happened in history.
The creeks and ravines in Charcoal Forest were in full spate, the lower parts of the courier route flooded. Water rushed down from the northern plateau in torrents, flooding the Charcoal Forest and carving a path to Duc. The town was surrounded by mud avalanches, engorged rivers and the flooded jungle.
When the people in Duc started to realize what was happening, they heard thunders coming from the sky. The sky over the high mountains of Syah Plateau were overcast, and lightning leaped from cloud to cloud. The Ducians had never heard of thunder like this. A deep fear started to awaken in their hearts.
The cheers had already stopped. People took shelter in their leaking houses, praying to their goddess, praying for the rain to stop. But the rain didn’t stop. Along with the approaching thunder, the heavy rain intensified to a thunderous rainstorm. It was as if the sky was torn apart and an ocean had fallen to the ground.
When the thunder arose, eighth-level mage Golier, the chief priest and oracle of the Enlil Shrine of Syah, was standing on the high ramparts. Watching the horizon in the southeast under the low dark clouds and the raging lightning, he mumbled, “Is this what you called the disaster, Nietzsche? It was real! But why are you still staying in Duc?”