Volume III : The Divine Emissaries
Chapter 80 – An Arrow That Muddles Three Kingdoms[3137 words]
Nearly all the warriors and mages of Memfis were at the square, but the security force was focused on maintaining order and preventing stampedes. Nobody was expecting an assassination against the Adoratrice! There were too many people on the square. It was impossible to screen them all. In addition, it would be practically impossible for any assassin to escape from the dense crowd. However, an assassination took place today!
The assassin was clever and timed it perfectly. Everyone was prostrated, facing the ground. The “arrow” resembled one of the massive bolts used by the ballistas atop the city walls. But the assassin managed to shoot it with a bow! The arrow had been disguised as a crutch, and the bowstring was tied to his waist. The assassin disguised himself as an old man, but the agility he revealed as he launched the attack betrayed him.
He was at least a supreme warrior!
It was not an easy task to do harm to the Adoratrice; the formation surrounding her also served as a powerful defense. But now, it became the only barrier between the arrow and Maria. The force attached to the arrow was so eerie that Amon’s javelin actually accelerated it instead of deflecting it.
In the next instant, other people reacted too. There were twelve Guardians of the Isis Shrine standing at the foot of the altar. Six of them were facing towards the arrow. Several silver lights sprang up from the ground and intercepted the arrow. Even the most solid metal would be easily chopped into pieces by these great forces.
But what happened next surprised Amon once again. After a series of violent yet soundless shock waves, the arrow actually remained in one piece! Each collision only caused it to pause briefly. Amon could feel that every time one of the silver lights struck the arrow, it transformed into a shadow. The shock waves were likely vibrations of space caused by spatial magic. Ultimately, the arrow didn’t veer off course in the slightest; it continued flying into the formation!
Amon gasped with surprise. The speed of the arrow showed that the archer was certainly a supreme warrior. But the strange reaction when his javelin and the Guardians’ sword lights tried to intercept it made him think of a particular type of magic: [Power Magic].
Power magic started from the supreme phase. Amon was still struggling to understand it. It was built on a deep understanding of the power of magic, nature, substances and forces. If the elemental magics were about communicating with and manipulating different kinds of manifesting powers that exist in nature, then power magic was the art to master the dynamics behind them.
The magic attached to the arrow should be a mix of power magic and spatial magic. Amon reckoned that only a top supreme mage could perform such magic and add it to an arrow. Any opposing forces would just be transformed into fuel and push it to its aim.
But how could this be possible? Was the assassin a supreme warrior and a supreme mage at the same time? Was it the power of two sides carried to an extreme? Could the assassin be a deity?
Another possibility came to his mind. The arrow might be a rare artifact containing a supreme magic, similar to a magic scroll. The assassin might be a supreme warrior and an advanced mage, capable of shooting the arrow at full strength while activating the supreme magic within it.
Amon didn’t have any more time to think. He rushed to the altar. As he dashed forward, he plucked a javelin from the hand of a nearby warrior who was still obliviously kissing the ground.
A golden shield materialized around the altar. The arrow was halted in midair for about a second, but it then penetrated the shield and continued flying towards Maria.
The arrow was already dangerously close. It was just several yards from the Adoratrice, who was still struggling to maintain the supreme magic, not able to move even a finger. But at the same moment, a figure appeared on the altar. It was Gabriel!
The Blessing from Isis didn’t stop. The sound of the bell was still echoing in the square. Many forms of magic protection suddenly sprang up around Maria: [Eternal Armor], various ice shields, [Wall of Reflection], and more. Help from the other mages at the scene finally arrived.
It was not about the might of magic, but rather people’s speed of reaction. Maria was the first to notice the arrow. She could well have chosen to dodge… But that would have forced her stop the ritual. She instead chose to trust the people around her. The magic protections should be able to block the arrow. However, for Gabriel, the magic protections were not secure enough. She overstepped the boundaries of decorum and mounted the altar that was reserved for the Adoratrice alone!
She fiercely slashed her sword at the arrow. The silver blade smote the black, javelin-sized arrow shaft, issuing a thunderous blast. The concussion was so violent that the blade broke into several pieces, and even the precious parangons on both sides of the sword’s crossguard lost their light and shattered. Time seemed to freeze. Gabriel gripped the arrow shaft with her other hand. The arrowhead stopped right at her chest.
Her grip was firm. The arrow was still writhing like a serpent, seeking to continue on its path. Blood dripped down between her fingers. But the arrow was unable to advance! As it gradually ceased to vibrate, countless cracks appeared on the surface of the arrow. It then broke into pieces and fell to the ground.
Amon didn’t catch the assassin. Immediately after shooting the arrow, the assassin stomped on the ground and leapt up high towards the edge of the square. Amon could only see a figure disappearing into the distance. Several mages took off and flew after the assassin. Warriors jumped forward and followed the assassin’s trail, soon disappearing behind the buildings surrounding the square.
Atop the altar, Maria was issuing orders through message magic, “The mages follow Wadj-hotep, the warriors follow Ankh! Burke, keep running the formation! The ritual cannot be broken. Ruia, maintain order in the square. Don’t allow mayhem to break out!”
Wadj-hotep was a ninth-level mage. He was the first high priest of the Isis Shrine, with the other two high priests being Burke and Urhiya. Ankh was an eighth-level warrior. He was the First Guardian of the Isis Shrine. Ruia was another supreme warrior who was also a Guardian of the Isis Shrine. This was the first time Maria had commanded them in such an authoritative manner. Since it was an emergency, there was no time to hesitate.
Wadj-hotep and Ankh had already moved. Two other supreme mages and supreme warriors went following after them. The assassin fled so quickly that only supreme powers could hope to catch up with him. This was truly a professional assassination. Wait for the best chance, launch only one attack and then leave immediately. Anyone who wasted a even a second in defending against the attack would risk losing track of the assassin.
Amon found that there was nothing more he could do to help. When he tried to throw the javelin he had picked up from the other warrior, the assassin had already slipped behind the buildings. Another figure, waiting on a nearby roof, jumped towards the assassin and slung an object at him. The object immediately expanded into a huge shuttle-like boat. The two got into the boat, and it flew away like a bolt from a crossbow.
The assassin hadn’t been alone. The accomplice even prepared a flying artifact. Such skillful cooperation revealed that the accomplice must be a supreme mage!
What was more, the assassin’s movements reminded Amon of someone. He had only seen one other person who had such impressive speed and strength — Enkidu, the legendary strongest warrior of the continent. The assassin seemed very much like him! If it was him, then the accomplice must be Gilgamesh. These two people were indeed heaven-daring, even audacious enough to kill a deity.
In terms of feasibility, it did make sense. They certainly had the ability to commit this assassination. But what was the motive? Why would they choose to assassinate the Adoratrice of Isis in Ejypt? They were famous heroes in their country. An anonymous assassination wouldn’t bring them more fame. However, Amon only saw the two figures from afar. The above was just his personal assumptions.
It was a shocking event. Strangely, apart from Amon and the people around the altar, hardly anyone else in the square had noticed it. The sounds of the collisions were masked by the echoes of the bell. Most of the crowd had been praying piously, facing the ground- some even closed their eyes. The Adoratrice managed to maintain the Blessing from Isis until the end of the ritual. The ceremony successfully came to a close. Three supreme mages and three supreme warriors were still chasing after the assassins. The city’s defensive formation was also activated. The assassins had no way to escape.
As the traditions indicated, the ceremony was followed by pompous revelry. The whole city was suffused with joy. The citizens of Lower Ejypt had been awaiting this ceremony for thirty-three years. They cheered for and praised the mercy of the goddess that had finally returned. However, underneath this image of happiness, tension was seeping out of the corners. The formation of the city was fully activated. Its detection units were working at full power. The guards were not participating the celebrations. Patrolling warriors could be seen on every street corner.
The authorities of Memfis acted as if nothing had happened. The Adoratrice had simply completed all the rites in the ceremony. But on the other hand, more and more people were sent out to investigate and track down the assassins.
All of the guards and priests in service were on duty this night. Amon was transferred to be a guard on the ramparts. But then, he was recalled to the Archive the next morning. Like the other guards, he received strict orders not to say anything about what he had seen at the square. The Adoratrice didn’t want to create panic in the public.
However, the news spread inside the Isis Shrine. Amon also heard from his colleagues’ discussions that Lord Wadj-hotep had failed to catch the assassins. They might well have already left the Empire!
On the third night after the ceremony, Amon was informed that Lord Wadj-hotep, the first high priest of the Isis Shrine, wished to see him. He was brought to an ornate hall with a lofty ceiling. Instead of candles and oil lamps, the room was illuminated by parangons set into the walls. In the middle of this luxurious sanctum sat Lord Wadj-hotep, the first high priest of the Isis Shrine. Beside him was Gabriel and Djehutihotep, the governor of Memfis.
Amon was a bit disappointed to find Maria absent.
Lord Wadj-hotep and Lord Djehutihotep highly praised Amon’s actions at the square that day. Then, Gabriel started the questions. She asked with a favorable tone, “The square is very large. Most of the mages were preoccupied with maintaining the formation. The rest were behind the altar. The assassin launched the attack from a position near the edge of the square. There were no mages within a hundred feet of him.”
“Among the warriors in the square, you were not the closest one to the assassin. There were eleven other warriors that were just as close as you, and there were four who were actually significantly closer to him. I saw when you threw your javelin at the arrow. You were already a sixth-level warrior, which was a great surprise to me. But more importantly, you were the only one who reacted in time and did something to stop the attack.”
“We summoned you today for two reasons. First, Lord Djehutihotep wishes to reward you. He wants to hear your demand. The news of the attempted assassination will start to circulate sooner or later, and so the Adoratrice has ordered that we make a public announcement explaining the affair tomorrow. Your deeds will be heard by the people, and you will receive the recognition that you deserve. Other than this, we want to know if you saw the assassin’s face. Please try to remember everything you have seen.”
Reward? Amon wasn’t in need of money or treasure. He replied humbly, “My life was saved by the Adoratrice at the side of the Nile. I was simply fulfilling my duty. Besides, my javelin didn’t stop the arrow at all. I shouldn’t receive a reward… If anything, I should be punished for my incompetence as a guard.”
“I must admit that I didn’t get a good look at the assassin’s face. When I tried to chase after him, he was already at the edge of the square. I could only see his back. He had a sturdy and robust body, which gave me a certain feeling… although I could be very wrong about it. Please allow me to speculate. This person skimmed over the square so lightly, in a way that didn’t befit his physique. As for his accomplice, I merely saw a dark figure flashing over. I failed to glean anything more.”
He recalled everything he had seen at the square. Having heard his statement, the lords looked at each other. Wadj-hotep nodded, “I pursued the assassins till we lost them this morning. We couldn’t catch them. And frankly, I wasn’t expecting you to provide any valuable clues. But routines are routines, and they exist for a reason. What you just said might be very important. Can you tell me why you have that feeling?”
Amon shook his head, “I cannot describe it more precisely. Every time I recall what happened, I just feel that such a large man shouldn’t be able to move like that, no matter how strong he is. It’s just a feeling. I have no evidence to support my guess.”
Lord Djehutihotep began to speak, “Dear brave warrior, although you can’t identify the assassin, your fearlessness is still worth commending. Although you have asked for nothing, as the governor of Memfis, I’ve decided to reward you. This is an order. Do you have anything more to say?”
Amon looked up and answered, “In that case, I sincerely thank Your Honor for your generosity. If there’s anything I’m allowed to ask, I want to know if Her Majesty is safe and well?”
Gabriel responded, “Of course, the Adoratrice is safe and well. There are many affairs awaiting Her Majesty, so she has simply been busy. Amon, you may withdraw now. The Adoratrice may summon you sometime later.”
The governor of Memfis bestowed Amon with a large sum of money, a full set of well-crafted armor and a spear. But of course, they were not as good as the items in Amon’s personal collection.
Amon was currently a sixth-level warrior. He was among the strongest warriors beneath the supreme phase. From the second day, he was promoted and became a foreman in charge of half of the watchmen. He was paid fifteen gold parans per month now, and was also given a private villa. His colleagues came to congratulate him in succession.
Amon didn’t care much about the promotion. There was only one thought in his head: the Adoratrice was going to summon him! He really wanted to see her again. He hadn’t had a chance to see her up close for six months now.
The very night Amon was summoned by Lord Wadj-hotep… Thousands of miles to the north, inside the magnificent palace in the center of Nineveh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Assyr, two middle-aged men were having a conversation. Sennachi Eliba, the King of Assyr, sat on the throne in the middle of the hall. Sitting on the side was Alef, the prime minister of the kingdom.
The prime minister was in his sixties. His chunky body leaned forward, grumbling, “Shouldn’t we be sending some people to Ejypt? It’s been three days since Her Majesty and His Eminence should have enacted their plan, but we haven’t received any news!”
The King of Assyr was on the bright side of forty. Well-built, tall and eagle-eyed, his majestic look and stately demeanor would always attract people’s attention while inspiring awe in their hearts. He replied to his prime minister with a smile, “I know what Naqi’a is capable of. Nobody in Ejypt will expect an assassination during the Hapisidis. She can escape even if she’s alone. With the help of the Preceptor, there is no chance they’ll be caught. We are thousands of miles away from Memfis; no message could arrive within three days. Let’s just wait for the good news.”
The prime minister spoke again, “With respect, my lord, next time you have an idea like this, please allow me to advise you. Two of the most important people of the kingdom have been sent thousands of miles away, committing such a dangerous task in a foreign land… It’s too risky! I never thought you would send Her Majesty as an assassin!”
Sennachi laughed, “Actually, it was the Preceptor’s idea. And he requested to do it himself. It was me who asked Naqi’a to assist him. The Preceptor has foreseen the future. Whether the assassination is successful or not, those three states will certainly break into chaos, which will benefit our great plan.”
“Those three states? How is Hittite involved?”
The king of Assyr smirked, “Oh my dear minister. Please think about who we are facing. The Pharaoh of Ejypt is our dear Ramses. A man of pride and ambition like him will never tolerate such provocation. He will even regard it as a good opportunity to start a war!”
“But who will he start a war with?”
Sennachi knocked the arm of his throne, “Of couse, he is not stupid enough to go to war with us. The thorn in the flesh of his Empire is Hittite, which is slowly breaking away from Ejypt’s control.”
“But then, why Bablon?”
“Since they cannot catch the assassins, they can only guess at their identities. Which two people, my dear minister, have the ability and guts to assassinate the Adoratrice of Isis?”
“Enkidu and Gilgamesh?”
Sennachi’s laughter shook the room, “Hahaha, that’s right! Everyone will think of them first! Those two dared to kill even Humbaba not long ago. Ramses will decide that they are surely the culprits behind the assassination attempt! That big head of his can only reach this sort of conclusion!”
Alef was still anxious, “But why would those two have done this? There’s no reason.”
[List of Characters]
Wadj-hotep : The first high priest of the Isis Shrine, a ninth-level mage.
Ankh : First Guardian of the Isis Shrine, an eighth-level warrior.
Ruia : One of the twelve Guardians of the Isis Shrine, a supreme warrior.
Burke : One of the three high priests of the Isis Shrine, a supreme mage.
Djehutihotep : The governor of Memfis.
Sennachi Eliba : King of Assyr.
Alef : The prime minister of the Kingdom of Assyr.