Volume III : The Divine Emissaries
Chapter 74 – A Divine Call[3300 words]
At that very moment, Havon strangely slipped backward. He tried to maintain his balance by bending his knees and lowering his center of gravity, but then he slipped forward!
Without Havon realizing it, an imperceptibly thin layer of ice had formed on the ground in front of Amon. A vague mist drifted over the ice, obscuring it and preventing any reflection.
Normally, Havon would easily be able to keep his balance on ice. But now, he was like a spent arrow. He wasn’t focused enough to notice the ice, and thus he unexpectedly slipped. However, his reaction was fast. He didn’t even give up on attacking. The khopesh was still stabbing towards Amon’s chest.
But in this brief moment, Havon found it impossible to correct his posture. The khopesh wavered, and its speed fell. Amon adjusted his body, swung the staff and just barely parried the incoming strike! The faint light on the edge of the khopesh scattered. The tip of the khopesh slightly changed course and stabbed an inch into Amon’s right chest. But that was the limit of the attack.
As his staff brushed past the khopesh, Amon mustered the last vestiges of his strength, sending it smashing down on Havon’s head! The sixth-level warrior immediately lost his life. The khopesh fell from his hand, leaving a bleeding line on Amon’s belly. Amon was utterly exhausted. He collapsed to the ground. Havon’s body fell across his legs.
After a long while, Amon struggled to sit up and push aside Havon’s corpse. Apart from the wound on his belly, all of his other wounds had stopped bleeding. However, it was actually Havon’s last stab which caused the most grievous injury. Amon’s lung had been punctured, bringing a sharp pain with every breath.
Amon won the battle by using a simple water magic. In fact, it was the very first magic he had ever learned. Crazy’Ole had asked him to cover the ground with ice, without relying on any medium. After much practice, Amon was able to flawlessly perform the magic with minimal magic power. He had once used it to subdue Maqi. Today, it was still this same magic that had saved his life.
Amon tried to rise to his feet, but he failed. He was simply too exhausted. He didn’t pay any attention to the bodies and objects strewn across the battlefield. He simply sat quietly and rested, breathing slowly and gently so as to ease the pain in his lung.
Schrodinger was still missing. It didn’t come back. Amon sat motionlessly until sunset. Recovering from the tension of a life-and-death fight, he didn’t want to move even a single toe.
When it was completely dark, Amon took the staff with one hand and placed its top against his chest. A gentle mass of white light washed over his body. It was a healing magic. The wound on his belly slowly disappeared. But ominously, the pain in his lung and from his other internal injuries remained. He let go of the staff and started meditating.
Back in Cape, when Amon was fighting the pursuers… Urhiya broke out in a cold sweat. The high priest had just read Lord Nero’s personal diary in the Archive. He was stunned after learning that Nero had left the finder a legendary [Tiamat’s Wrath]!
It was called a legendary scroll because it was nearly impossible to make one. In the legends, only the deities had the power and skill to create a [Tiamat’s Wrath]. For mortals, there was a theoretical possibility of success, but the last example dated back centuries ago! It was a supreme scroll, but only a supreme mage could directly activate it. An advanced mage would have to learn a specific method to open it, at the cost of their own life, and wouldn’t have any control over its effects.
Nero had spent years of effort in making this scroll… Not to use it, but to prove himself. It was proof that his skill in scroll-making had reached the apex. Once activated, [Tiamat’s Wrath] would destroy everything within its vast range. It was said that even deities would be fatally injured!
Urhiya had just thought of a terrible possibility. What if Amon still possessed those three scrolls from Nero? Was that the secret he was hiding? Would he have the chance to activate [Tiamat’s Wrath]? If by any chance he succeeded, Amon and his pursuers would certainly perish together.
This would be the worst scenario. If it happened, Urhiya would lose everything: his advisor, his chief guard, his nephew, Amon’s scrolls, and any possible secrets about Bair and the deities. How could he bear such a loss?
The high priest was somewhat nervous. He prayed to his god, wishing that Amon would never be able to activate that scroll. It could be that Amon wasn’t a sorcerer at all, or that Vitru wouldn’t give him the opportunity to use it.
But then, he suddenly realized that even if the foreign young man was indeed a sorcerer, he surely couldn’t be an advanced one. It was impossible! There was no need to worry about it. Urhiya couldn’t help but mock himself. He smiled and wiped the cold sweat from his temples.
While the high priest in Cape was feeling relieved… Out on a splendid ship in the middle of the Nile, a young woman abruptly showed a look of surprise.
This huge, splendid vessel was made of cedar. The ship’s bow and stern curved up into pointed ends, making the whole ship look like a crescent moon. The hull was painted with a rare kind of tree sap, and it glittered under the sun. Numerous hieroglyphs and other arcane sigils were carved and painted on the surface of the boat. They were woven together into complex magic formations which provided various functions to the ship. A three-storey forecastle towered over the deck. Exquisitely decorated, the structure was imbued with a sense of elegance, mystery and awe. It served as the vehicle of the Adoratrice of Isis, Her Majesty who governed Lower Ejypt and represented the power and mercy of the goddess.
The Khoiak festival was coming to a close. In Lower Ejypt, the Adoratrice of Isis was responsible for hosting the major ceremonies during the festival. Herds of cattle and sheep were slaughtered and thrown into the Nile River every year, feeding the crocodiles, so that they wouldn’t eat Osiris’ corpse. Some also believed that the crocodiles themselves were Osiris’ incarnation. Anyway, it was very important to give sacrifice to the Patron of the Nile River. The Khoiak festival was one of the grandest festivals of the year, and many people would attend the ceremonies.
The Adoratrice was merely the host. It was the priests who led the people in casting the butchered animals into the river. Swarms of crocodiles would scramble for the feed, tearing the meat with their enormous maws. The horrifying scene would leave a deep impression in the believers’ mind, subconsciously transforming into awe and fear of the gods.
Sitting expressionlessly on a high throne overlooking the riverbank, holding a staff and wearing a golden crown, Maria calmly watched the proceedings. She didn’t want to see such a vicious scene, but it was her duty. She could only pray piously to Isis.
Several years ago, she would never have imagined that she would one day host a grand ceremony like this. But today, she realized that it actually wasn’t something for her to choose. After she had decided to completely devote herself to Isis, everything followed on a set path.
The ceremony ended. The Adoratrice’s ship set off. She was going to sail along the Nile River and meet the believers of Isis. Thousands of people were still on their knees at the bank of the river. They fervently prayed to Isis and the Adoratrice even after the ship disappeared below the skyline.
The ship followed the currents. Maria sat at the balcony on the top floor of the forecastle. While watching the vast rolling river, she buried herself in thoughts. Gabriel quietly stood behind her, a sword hanging at her waist. On both sides of the deck, the maids and female slaves were regularly throwing sacrifices into the river. These were small pastries in the shape of various beasts and monsters, in commemoration of Osiris’ various feats.
Suddenly, at the top of the Adoratrice’s staff, the Gods’ Tear shone brightly! The dazzling light flashed across Maria’s face and reflected on Gabriel’s armor.
Gabriel jumped in surprise. She asked in a low voice, “What are you doing, my lord?”
Maria frowned, “Nothing! The Gods’ Tear activated by itself… as if it was responding to something. And it somehow drew on my magic power.”
Gabriel was confused, “How is this possible? How can the Gods’ Tear act spontaneously? I’ve been with you ever since you obtained it. Nothing like this has ever happened before!”
The brilliantly shining light only lasted for an instant. The Gods’ Tear then returned to its normal state. Maria gazed at the staff and sank into her thoughts, “I’ve never seen it before either. However, I’ve read about something like this… In the records, it signifies the divine guidance and calling. It is like an oracle, indicating that a god or a herald of the gods is coming.”
Gabriel was surprised, “My Lord, you look so calm! How can you maintain your peace after witnessing such a miracle?”
Maria smiled gently, “My dear guardian… As the Adoratrice, I shouldn’t express surprise or perplexity in the presence of a miracle. Although I was probably even more astounded than you, I learned early on to keep my shock and uncertainty deep in my heart. To tell you the truth, I heard something just then…. It was like a vague call, echoing from far away. It somehow made me recall some old memories.”
It had been over two years since she had left the town of Duc. Maria was now eighteen years old. She was fully grown up, but her face hadn’t changed much.
However, according to her old acquaintances, nobody would think of the young girl Icho when seeing the Adoratrice now. There was an aura of majesty that Maria naturally seemed to emit.
Her eyes were limpid and serene, filled with sympathy. One could mistake her countenance as that of a goddess, and feel ashamed of his own humble presence. It was a fundamental change in temperament and soul. But deep in her eyes, there was still the shadow of an innocent young girl, which few could perceive.
Gabriel asked, “Where did that call come from?”
Maria pointed downstream, “Somewhere ahead of us.”
Maria didn’t know that when she saw the light from the Gods’ Tear on her staff, Amon was fighting for his life and desperately ejected everything from inside Osiris’ rib. The Gods’ Tear from within the rib once again saw the light of day, breaking through Vitru’s magic shield and hitting him in the face. Amon was unaware that Maria was heading his way, sailing down the Nile on a splendid ship.
The next morning, at dawn, Amon finally managed to stand up with the help of his staff. He heard buzzing in the surrounding area. It was the flies. They were all over the dead bodies. Two hyenas were even tearing into Abham’s corpse. Startled by Amon’s approach, they ran away, full of grievance.
Amon took a look at Havon’s body and sighed. The warrior had almost killed him, but now he was just another corpse. He was the strongest and most respectable opponent that Amon had ever fought. But Amon didn’t even know his name! If Havon had chosen to flee after enduring the supreme magics, Amon wouldn’t have been able to stop him.
Perhaps he thought that he would definitely win, or perhaps this was a mission that he absolutely had to fulfill. Whatever the case, Havon died here yesterday. Amon didn’t want his body to be eaten by hyenas. He flicked his staff. A fireball fell upon the body and reduced it to ashes.
On second thought, Amon decided to cremate all of the dead bodies. He had taken their lives with his own hands. The hatred and antagonism, if there were still any, should be put to rest. Their bodies shouldn’t be left exposed in the fields, becoming food for scavenging animals. Besides, Amon needed to erase any traces of this battle. Before he cremated the bodies, he naturally didn’t forget to search through their belongings. The items and corpses were strewn across the battlefield, mixed together with everything from Osiris’ Rib, after all.
For the most part, the loot consisted of trivial and miscellaneous items. There were also parangons and coins, some weapons and staffs. The most valuable staff was Abham’s. Vitru’s was good as well. Amon found two scrolls on Vitru’s body and one on Havon’s. But none of these held his attention for long. Amon found two other items that were truly interesting…
The first was a square, flat stone with a paragon inlaid in the middle. To his surprise, Amon recognized this artifact. It was a Sheuthe Tuspir, or “shadow-soul chasing lamp” in plain language. In one of Crazy’Ole’s messages, there were instructions on the creation of various artifacts, including the Sheuthe Tuspir. It was apparently very difficult to make, not to mention the rare materials required. But here was a finished product! Amon knew its function and how to use it. He finally understood why he could never shake off the pursuers.
The second item was a letter. It was sealed in a cowhide envelope that had been magically processed. The letter would be destroyed if the envelope wasn’t opened in a particular way. With his knowledge of magic formations, Amon tinkered with it for a long while before succeeding in opening it, almost by accident. The letter was written in hieroglyphs, which a commoner wouldn’t have been able to read. But Amon wasn’t an ordinary commoner.
It was a letter written by Urhiya and addressed to Burke, another high priest of the Isis Shrine. Amon’s hands trembled when he read the contents of the letter. It involved people whom he was familiar with: Lord Maria, the Adoratrice of Isis, and Gabriel, one of the Guardians of the Isis Shrine. The revelation was bloodcurdling…
Urhiya was asking Burke to find an excuse, so that he could return to Memfis by order of the Shrine. He also mentioned Gabriel, saying that as she was the Adoratrice’s only close supporter, she must be removed from Memfis as soon as possible! In order to make sure that Gabriel would never have the chance to return, Urhiya recommended his chief guard Havon as Gabriel’s replacement. Urhiya believed that Havon would soon become a supreme warrior after completing his latest “secret mission”, and thus the replacement wouldn’t be controversial.
Amon knew that Icho had become the Adoratrice of the Isis Shrine, but he hadn’t known that the situation was so complicated. The high priests of the Isis Shrine obviously didn’t like her and just wanted to use her as a symbolic idol. They were even targeting Gabriel! The supreme warrior seemed to be the Adoratrice’s only true ally. In Amon’s thoughts, the high priests of the Isis Shrine should have welcomed the new Adoratrice and become her firmest supporters. Icho probably wasn’t living a happy life in Memfis.
Amon stared at the letter for a good while. He was worried about Icho. Once he arrived at Memfis, he would have to find a chance to deliver this letter to her, so she could be warned and prepared. In Amon’s eyes, despite her being the Adoratrice of Isis and the ruler of Lower Ejypt, Icho Maria was still the mild and pure girl he had met in Duc.
Amon came to a sudden realization. He hadn’t originally known why he wanted to go to Memfis. Was it because Memfis was one of the continent’s most famous capital cities? Or perhaps because he had heard so much about it in his childhood?
But no… he knew the reason now: It was because of Icho!
After leaving the mountains and facing the unknown world, he was driven by the quest of the secret of the gods, as well as the promises made to his new friends. But once his duties were fulfilled, he decided to go to Ejypt. It was because of Icho. He wanted to see her, even if she had become a lofty personage whom he could only gaze upon from afar.
Looking at the letter in his hand, Amon couldn’t help but wonder… Was there really something divine arranging people’s fates?
Amon sealed the letter again, and then put everything back into the rib. He used fire magic to cleanly burn away all signs of the battle. He changed into a new Ejyptian outfit gifted by Tustin Ramose, and threw his gory old clothes into the fire. Smoke rose from the flames. Everything that had happened here was swept away, like the smoke in the wind.
Amon tried to pick up Osiris’ rib from the ground. He found that he had been too optimistic about his condition. Were his internal wounds worsening? He struggled to put away the hefty rib, and then chose a real branch to use as a walking stick. He leaned heavily on it and stumbled towards the Nile River, crossing the mountain pass.
He had to move slowly. His lung was still punctured, and he could feel himself bleeding internally. By the time the sun rose above the trees, he had managed to arrive at the bank of the rolling Nile River. He trudged south along the riverbank. The ferry was miles upriver; there was still a long way to go.
The sun was not very strong, but Amon was soon drenched in sweat. His breaths came faster and faster, and he started to pant. He felt sick, dizzy and confused. His sight grew dim. There seemed to be sparks drifting before his eyes. His legs grew heavy, dragging long footprints through the mud.
Amon was familiar with this feeling. He had felt something similar on the edge of the state of Uruk, before he met Hevel and Qayin. At the time, he had expended too much magic power spying on the fight between Humbaba and Enkidu. But now, the situation was even worse. He was not only exhausted both mentally and physically, but also suffering from terrible internal injuries. He couldn’t take it anymore.
The healing magic and the short rest last night hadn’t cured him. He had merely gained enough energy to clear his mind and leave. Amon knew that he had to find help. Otherwise, he would pass out in this desolate area and surely lose his life. That was why he was struggling towards the ferry. But he had been too optimistic. His internal wounds were worsening, and his condition steadily deteriorated…
He still couldn’t see the ferry. Was there even one to begin with? There wasn’t a living thing around. Not even a bird. The monotonous road at the bank of the river seemed to stretch on endlessly. He struggled to remain standing with the aid of the walking stick. But it was just an ordinary tree branch. Eventually, it broke. He fell heavily to the ground.
Amon tried once again to get up, but he failed. His strength was gone. He only managed to turn over and see the sky. Even his eyelids were as heavy as mountains now. Bright sunlight shined down on the bank of the river. The world swam before his eyes. The stink of mud poured into his nostrils. He felt it difficult to breathe.