Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 44 – Everyone Has Their Own Secrets[3326 words]
Why did Amon travel in disguise? Why hadn’t he revealed that he could use magic? Because instead of being a mage, he was a sorcerer!
The ferry owner’s question drew the crowd’s curiosity. Amon had to reply, “I’m on an important mission that involves secrets of the gods. So I have to travel in disguise. Please don’t ask me anything about this or tell others about what you’ve heard and seen today!”
Oh, so he was a mage on a secret mission and he had been forced to reveal his abilities because of the monster’s attack! Since he had just saved everybody’s life by displaying powerful magic, most who still had questions had to swallow them back into their throats when Amon told them to not ask. But the questions wouldn’t just disappear.
Even if this esteemed mage was travelling in disguise, he could have disguised himself as a noble, an official or at the very least a wealthy merchant. Why did he have to pretend to be a plebeian? It just didn’t make sense! A fleeting doubt might even flit through people’s mind: could he be a sorcerer? However, a whim was a whim. Nobody dared to speak it out, let alone to delve deeper.
Inanna walked ahead, hugging Amon’s arm and continued, “In order to fulfil his duty, our esteemed mage has made the sacrifice to put on flax clothes and travel as a commoner… His mission is so important that he should have never revealed his identity as a mage. He should have killed all of you!… Instead, he has kindly saved your lives! If any of you dare to make his identity known to others, the punishment from the kingdom would soon fall upon you!”
Her words squashed the last bit of lingering doubt. Nobody dared to ask anything more. The passengers clearly saw how charming a girl Inanna was. She must be the pampered maid of the esteemed mage.
Inanna looked around and her face suddenly changed. She cried to Amon, “My lamb! Where is my lamb? My little lamb is missing! It must have fallen into the river! I intend to take care of it, making sure that it won’t suffer from the misery and torture of this world… Amon, I feel so hurt…”
Inanna could always shed tears in one second. Her voice was so sweet and soft, her face was so adorable, whoever saw her crying would feel sorry for her and would like to cry for her too. A merchant came forward and greeted Amon, “Esteemed mage, you have saved our lives and our goods. Now that you have lost your goods, it is our duty to make it up for you. Please allow me compensate her loss!”
This merchant was the one who had the most goods on the ferry. The two warriors who came to Amon’s side were his bodyguards. He appreciated that Amon had save his life and all of his goods, and he also saw a good opportunity to make acquaintances with an esteemed mage.
This mage was on a “secret mission”. He didn’t know how much time this mission was going to take but he believed that, one day, Amon would return to the city, to the shrines. If he could befriend him now, he might have more convenience in the future. What he was planning to offer was not merely a lamb, but a large sum of money so as to leave a good impression to this young mage.
Amon did look young. In the merchant’s eyes, this mage was around twenty years old. And he could already master such powerful magics, throwing out precious scrolls without a blink. Unlike those peasants who didn’t have much common sense, as a merchant, he didn’t have the slightest doubt about what Amon was saying from the beginning.
Sorcerers were those who practice magic privately, without the shrine’s permission. How could they possess so many precious magic artifacts and use them so generously? Only with the support and resource of a shrine could a young mage with such elegant bearing be raised. Amon must come from a high lineage and has a great future ahead of him! This was the merchant’s conclusion.
The merchant’s servants also stepped forward and handed a sheepskin purse to Amon. Amon could tell from the weight that it must be full of gold. He asked with a bit of surprise, “I lost the lamb because of the monster. Why are you making it up for me?”
The merchant replied humbly, “If it hadn’t been for you, the whole ship would have been lying at the bottom of the river, my life and everyone else’s life would have been long gone and this wouldn’t have belonged to me… Your courage and power has saved us all. We should be grateful for your deed. Please don’t refuse my gratitude.”
The ferry owner added, “My esteemed mage. Please accept our gratitude, or we will be harrowed with guilt.” While speaking this, the ferry owner could still feel his heart beating fast. He was frightened by Inanna’s words.
Experienced as he was, the ferry owner also believed that Amon was a high lord, for he had used three magic scrolls when fighting the monster. He knew that the scrolls must have cost Amon a lot. If they didn’t show enough gratitude and irritated the mage, as the easiest to be found, he would certainly be the first to have troubles.
Hearing the reasons given by the merchant and the ferry owner, Amon felt that it was better not to refuse their favor. He looked at the merchant and nodded, “Alright then. Thank you. I bought the lamb with two silver coins. If you want to compensate my loss, then give me two silver coins.”
The crowd was shocked again. Two silver coins was nothing to an esteemed mage. They thought that Amon would either accept the merchant’s gift, or refuse it to show his generosity. On the other hand, two silver coins was too much for a lamb. It was practically extortion. But why would an esteemed mage extort a merchant for a lamb? It didn’t make any sense!
Except Inanna, no one knew that Amon was just telling the truth. Not everybody on the ferry realized that Amon had used magic scrolls, some didn’t even understand what a magic scroll meant. The doubt that Amon was a sorcerer came back to some people again. But others who had experience knew the value of the scrolls that Amon had used.
Inanna spoke sweetly beside Amon’s ear, “My esteemed mage, we have lost more than just a lamb! You used three expensive scrolls to kill the monster!” She seemed to be whispering with Amon, but her voice was somehow heard by the whole crowd.
Someone in the crowd protested, “Leiskkhut, you are one of the richest tradesmen in Uruk! Why do you only give a lamb to the esteemed mage? Why don’t you reward him for the three magic scrolls? ”
Someone else added, “Chief, you are rich too. The esteemed mage saved your ship. You should give something too.”
No matter what they thought of Amon’s identity, the passengers’ gratitude for Amon was sincere. And they were also afraid to get in trouble for offending a mage. After all, it was the richest among them who were going to pay. One couldn’t be more generous when he wasn’t the one who had to pay.
The ferry owner broke out into a cold sweat when heard this sudden suggestion. If Amon had not been standing right in front of him, he would have immediately found the one who brought it up and thrown him into the river. Leiskkhut, the merchant, was cursing in his mind as well. A bag of gold was enough to make friends with an esteemed mage. But he knew clearly that even all of his goods together, even including the ferry, wouldn’t be enough to compensate for all the scrolls that he had used.
Magic scrolls were not something that you could just buy in a market. A commoner had no chance to buy a magic scroll, since only mages could use magic scrolls.
If its value had to be measured, there were two ways to do it. The high nobles could go to the shrines in big cities or to the Magic Academy in the capital and submit a “request of endowment” to the scroll makers there, or pay a private visit to them and pay a tremendous sum of treasure to order a scroll. It cost a lot either way.
Amon shook his head, “I used them to save my own life. Thank you for your kindness. But I don’t need you to compensate me for that. If you really want to do something for me, help me keep this secret so that I can fulfill my mission. Don’t tell anybody who I am and what I have done!”
The ferry owner carefully wiped the sweat that had gathered at the corner of his forehead. The merchant felt relieved too. He replied gratefully, “My name is Leiskkhut. I’m from Uruk. Please allow me to welcome you, esteemed mage, if you happen to pass by Uruk after fulfilling your mission. I promise you will have the best reception I can offer.”
His words were sincere. He could tell that Amon didn’t intend to ask the passengers to compensate him for his scrolls. As for the lamb, he interpreted that the high price was a minimal requirement to match its owner’s status.
Amon smiled and nodded, “Alright, I’ll remember that!” This world was so strange a land to him that even one more acquaintance was welcome to him. So far the only people he knew were Metatro and the mysterious Inanna. At least this merchant left a good impression on him.
The ferry finally arrived at the other side of the river. Everyone bowed to Amon to express their gratitude before leaving. Amon stood at the fore nodding greetings to them, holding Inanna’s arm. Not far from the ferry was a market town. Every passenger followed Amon’s demand and kept what happened on the ferry secret, or at least until they left the market town and went far away enough from the esteemed mage.
The violent fight in the river was, of course, observed by the people on the bank. Many were wondering what had happened. The passengers were asked again and again and they could only give out a vague answer about a monster showing up, that an esteemed mage on a secret mission happened to be on the ferry and he fought against the monster, killed it and left incognito when the ferry came ashore. Amon succeeded in hiding his identity, but his feats could not be concealed. The news of a mage slaying a monster in the river soon spread throughout the whole town.
After he disembarked, Amon first wanted to find a carriage for Inanna. The capital was still far away from here, Amon didn’t want her to walk all the way home. In the market town, they met Leiskkhut who was ordering some servants to move his goods discharged from the ferry onto several carts. Knowing that Amon was looking for a carriage, he proposed, “Please take my coach, sir. I give it to you as present. This is the best coach and horses I have right now.”
Amon shook his head, “I am just looking for a normal coach to cover part of the way. You don’t need to give me such a nice coach.”
Leiskkhut interpreted this in another way. His coach was for commoners. The decorations were great and the inside looked cosy, but it could hardly compare to a mage’s coach. He hurriedly added, “You can’t find a better coach in this town. Please resign yourself to this one. Or you can consider it as borrowed from me. You can use it whenever you need. If you can still remember me, you can have someone send it back to me.”
Leiskkhut had a good plan. Besides befriending this young mage, he might know who he was through the coach in the future too. Amon thought for a short while and answered, “Alright, thank you. I’ll return the coach and the horses to you.” He was going to visit Metatro now, but one day he would turn back west, go to Cape and return Nero’s staff to his family. So he would certainly pass by this town again, and when he did he could return the coach then.
Amon had made a decision when he disembarked. He was going to fulfill Nero’s last wish. Although Nero was one of the mages who ran after Bair, he didn’t do it out of a personal grudge with Bair. He was simply acting under the orders of the kingdom. It was even worth admiring that he decided to fulfill the mission knowing he was going to be killed.
Nero’s scrolls had saved Amon’s life today. If the merchant knew to repay Amon for saving his life, Amon should also repay Nero and return his staff and ring to the shrine of Cape, according to his will.
He didn’t stay long in town. Driving the coach, Amon left the quay with Inanna. Instead of following the main road, they turned to a half-obsolete path in the wilderness. The east side of the Euphrate River belonged to the state of Uruk. On the open fields were grasslands, farmlands and rolling small hills covered with woods. The land seemed to be a lot more fertile than that in Duc. They could feel the prosperity and peace from the scene along the road.
It was actually the first time for Amon to drive a coach. He spent half a day learning to control the horses with the reins and make them trot forward along the road. He even used air magic to give orders to the horses, there were always small gusts of wind around the horses’ ears that came from nowhere.
Inanna lifted the curtain and smiled sweetly, “Amon, my brave hero, my handsome hunter and esteemed mage. How can you be so bad at driving? The horses are well trained. They know where to go once they hear the cracking of the lash… There’s a lash on the coach, but I suggest you change to the one the old shepherd gave you that day.”
When they bought the lamb outside Som, the old shepherd had given a lash to Amon. He kept it in his bag at all times but didn’t really have any time to look at it. Hearing Inanna reminding him, he took it out from the bag. As soon as he had it in his hand, he was shocked. He immediately brought out another thing out from the bag, the string of the monster that he had fished out from the river.
The material of the lash and the string felt so alike! More than that, they should be the same material!
What the lash differed from the string was that it was not coiled but stretched out like a normal rope. It must have been processed. Equipped with all kinds of theoretical knowledge about magic artifact making, Amon had no idea how the string was processed into a lash. After all, he hadn’t made a real artifact himself yet.
Amon knew very clearly how horrible the monster snake was. However, a shepherd had processed the string of the monster into a lash and had given it to Amon. Amon should realize that the shepherd wasn’t an ordinary man either! In fact, he was even more mysterious than Inanna. But since Inanna had hinted to him about this, she must have known who the shepherd was. Following this reasoning, she must have had ulterior motives when leading Amon to the old shepherd to buy a lamb that day in Som!
Inanna had once claimed to Amon that her real status was too high to be mentioned to anyone. But Amon believed that what he had experienced with her was not any less complicated than what she claimed in her story. Amon changed lashes out and waved it forward. With a crisp crack, the two horses trotted forwards with an elegant pace. There was not much need to control the coach any more.
Even with the enjoyable scenery in sight and with the horses briskly jogging across the vast plain, Amon didn’t feel the least bit of relief. Instead, the cool wind passing his neck made him want to shiver.
Seeing the lash, he realized that he had been used. A beautiful shepherdess crying at the foot of the mountain, an old herdsman in Som, a monster in the river… they now all added up, telling Amon that he had stepped into an arranged plot.
Inanna’s story must have been more complicated than she had claimed. And it was certainly not a coincidence that Amon met her twice — no wonder Schrodinger warned him so much about her!
Amon drove the coach onto a small path not only because he wanted to avoid too many people, but also because he had something to ask Inanna. But now he found that he didn’t have the courage to open his mouth. What did this mysterious and dazzling woman want from him? His back tensed at the thought that she might still be looking at him from the back. After a while, he finally spoke, “We are not on the main road to the capital. Inanna, are you familiar with this path? Are we going in the right direction?”
Inanna gently put her hand on his shoulder,
“The road is right under your feet. I’ll be your guide. Don’t worry and go ahead. Through this path we can bypass the city of Uruk along the east bank of Euphrate. Then we can go back to the main road and head for Bablon City… I’ve lost my lamb in the river, but I still have you — my handsome Amon! Why are you nervous? What has disarranged your heartstrings? You must have questions in your mind. Why don’t you just ask me?”
Inanna was giving an intimation when she spoke out to remind Amon about the extraordinary lash after they crossed the river. She knew that Amon would realize something unusual and questions would grow in his mind. Now she was asking him to speak out in her sweet voice.
Her delicate hand on his shoulder should have made Amon comfortable, but Amon felt a little scared. He was even more nervous than he had been when facing the monster snake in the river. Thinking carefully, he concluded that Inanna shouldn’t bear any ill will. So he tried to be natural and asked, “Inanna, how did you know that I had scrolls?”
He had been holding this question in when they had been on the ferry. But he couldn’t let these words out in front of the crowd. It was Inanna’s prompt that had helped him recall that he had those scrolls in his bag, so that he could use them to kill the monster and save his life. However, he was sure that he had never opened the bag to Inanna, nor had he revealed that he knew magic. How could Inanna have possibly known that he had magic scrolls in his bag?
Inanna stroked Amon’s shoulder softly and teasingly, “You didn’t tell me that you knew magic. That’s your secret. We all have secrets, don’t we?… You used magic to kill the monster when we were on the ferry, and I also know that you carry many precious parangons with you. So it’s normal that you have scrolls with you, isn’t it?… You told people that you are on a secret mission. I’m still together with you. You won’t kill me to cover up your secret, will you?”