“Nin-……Ninth-level……so-……sorcerer?” stammered Amon. He could not close his mouth.
He heard clearly Crazy’Ole say ‘sorcerer’, not ‘mage’. Sorcerers were those who learned magic without the permission of the gods. They were to be punished by the shrines. It was incredible that a sorcerer could obtain enough power to become a demigod.
Crazy’Ole’s gaze pierced the wall as if he was looking at some long lost memories. After a long silence, Amon realized something and asked carefully, “So, are you a sorcerer too?”
“Yes, I am. But my achievement is hardly comparable to my student’s. I’m just an eighth-level sorcerer,” Crazy’Ole confirmed. He was still looking at the wall.
Amon was stupefied. He examined Crazy’Ole for a good while and asked again, more carefully, “So, your student…” He didn’t know how to form the question.
“His name was Bair,” Crazy’Ole seemed to be talking to himself. “If he hasn’t become a god by now, then he must have died long ago. The last time I received a message from him was thirty years ago. Schrodinger brought it to me. He was being chased by a lot of mages and warriors for abducting the Adoratrice of the Isis Shrine, Troni. He wanted to come to me but he couldn’t get rid of them. I’ve heard no news from him since.”
Amon froze as if he was petrified. There was too much astonishing information in for him to take in. First, he said that the sorcerer could still be alive if he had become a god, which meant that a man like him could actually become a god. Even then, all the oracles had said that a man couldn’t live eternally like the gods, let alone a sorcerer.
Secondly, Schrodinger had brought him the message thirty years ago. So this cat had lived at least thirty years! And it could bring messages from sorcerers. What kind of cat is that!? Amon tried to reflect. This dirty fat cat existed in his earliest memories. It was always in Crazy’Ole’s house. But it was very lazy and slept all day in the corner. People hardly noticed it.
The most astonishing thing was that sorcerer, Bair. He had abducted the Adoratrice of the Isis Shrine thirty years ago! Amon still had no idea what the Adoratrice was. But he knew that a sorcerer could not just walk into a shrine as a man would into a restaurant. However, Bair, the sorcerer did it and stirred such a huge commotion! It was as if he did not care about his relationship with the shrines at all.
Amon did not say anything. But Crazy’Ole stopped looking at the wall and turned to him, “You don’t believe it, do you? He entered the Shrine in Memfis, accepting the invitation to be their honoured high priest because he wanted to fulfil my life’s wish. But even I could not imagine that he took away the Adoratrice along with the Gods’ Tear. What a heaven-defying man! Far crazier than me, the Crazy’Ole!”
Amon finally was able to feel his senses come back to him. “No, no…! How is this possible? The sorcerers are abhorred by the gods and wanted by the shrines, aren’t they? How could he be the honoured high priest of the Shrine in Memfis?”
Crazy’Ole smiled coldly, as usual, “What I’ve just told you about divine magic and body arts is common knowledge in this continent. They are in the oracles, and they appear to be the truth. But in fact, they contain a lot of errors, some are lies, even. I taught everything I knew to Bair in the hope that he would fulfil my only wish: find out the true secret behind a god’s divinity.”
Amon’s mind was still in slow motion. So he just threw out the complex questions he could not solve and inquired further, “You still haven’t told me how a sorcerer detested by the gods could become the high priest of the shrine in Memfis. ”
The cold smile in Crazy’Ole’s face widened, “The saying that only noblemen can learn divine magic with the permission from the shrines, in my opinion, is just a lie to help the priests to be the only masters of magic. The ones who learn magic privately are called sorcerers, intolerable and wanted by the shrines. But that is only true for the primary and advanced sorcerers. If you have the luck to attain the level of a supreme sorcerer, things will change dramatically.”
“What drama?” Amon was more perplexed. He had only seen dramas in the festivals of the town every year that praised the gods.
“Amon, will you hunt a beast at the cost of a herd of sheep? If the beast isn’t coming for you or even wants to help you?”
“No, of course not! I’m not stupid.”
Crazy’Ole humphed, “Neither are the priests in the shrines! It costs too much to chase and kill a supreme sorcerer! The loss is almost certainly unbearable. No one in their right mind would do that unless there’s no other choice. If a great sorcerer appears in the territory of a shrine, but he hides his identity and does not challenge the shrine, then none of the priests would be stupid enough to bother him. Even if he is exposed, they will tend to deal with him in another way. ”
Amon seemed to understand better but he still asked, “What way?”
Crazy’Ole turned to the wall again and looked as if he could see through it, and started to tell Amon the story between Bair and him.
The best way to deal with an exposed supreme sorcerer was to ‘eliminate’ him without losing the shrine’s own power. It would be even better if the shrine’s power could be strengthened. So they would negotiate, persuading or bribing the sorcerer to join the shine and receive the blessing of the gods. They would then give him a noble title and grant him the position of the honoured high priest. Problem solved. No fights, no risk of death, and best of all, no losses, only gains.
The supreme mages were supreme in the entire continent. Every shrine hoped to have more of them. They were symbols of power and status. Even the kings privately appreciated such solutions. Who didn’t want more mages serving him?
As for the sorcerers, they didn’t need to worry about their identity any more and they could enjoy a much higher status in society. The shrines that could recruit great sorcerers usually had enormous wealth and endless resources. Study magic in the shrine and enjoy being admired by others, or hide in the dark as a fugitive. What would you choose?
So the negotiations were always light-hearted. Both parties received what they wanted. But there were always exceptions. Those who could learn magic alone and had great achievements were always the true geniuses. Many of them were self-important and would not accept the invitation, even if they were promised many benefits or given a great gift in private by the priests in exchange for not challenging the authority of the shrines.
Only when a sorcerer turned against the shrine or the kingdom openly would it be necessary to eliminate him physically. It would be a bitter war, and various important powers would involve themselves to ensure the mission was a success.
Bair was Crazy’Ole’s student. When he entered the city of Memfis, he was already an eighth-level great sorcerer. He was quite straightforward. He went to the Isis Shrine, told them about his identity and showed them his achievement, which amazed the Adoratrice and the three high priests in charge of the shrine. Following normal procedure, Bair became the honoured high priest of the Isis Shrine, a highly respected mage.
The Shrine told the people of Memfis that Bair was a hermit. He had been quietly studying magic after being blessed by Mother Isis. He did not care about the fame until he became an eighth-level great mage and accepted the title of high priest. What a devout, modest, perseverant and excellent man!
In the beginning, Bair’s title was purely nominal, without any real power. But three years later, the situation changed. He ascended to ninth level during his term as an honoured high priest, becoming a demigod. Even Troni the Adoratrice, sovereign of the Isis Shrine, was merely an eighth-level mage at the time.
After that, Bair held the highest honour in the Isis Shrine, also becoming a member of the Magic Senate of the Empire of Ejypt. He was qualified to join the discussions on the supreme secrets of divine magic and give instructions and guidance to any nobleman and priest. He had access to all the documents, ancient codes and records in the Isis Shrine as well as the Archive of the Magic Senate of the Empire of Ejypt — which had been his goal when he had entered the Isis Shrine.
Crazy’Ole taught him all he knew hoping he would help him fulfil his only wish: to figure out how the gods had become gods. If he uncovered that secret, then maybe he could solve two problems: could man become a god? And if so, how?
Crazy’Ole knew that it was so difficult that it was beyond his imagination Bair could ever succeed. He just asked him to do his best. To Crazy’Ole’s knowledge, Bair might have been very close to the secret. Even if he had not solved the whole problem, he must have had the key to it, otherwise, he would not have abducted the Adoratrice of the Isis Shrine.
The abduction changed everything, including Bair’s fate. Had it not happened, Bair would still be among the greatest mages in the history of Ejypt and be honoured all his life. He might still have the chance to fulfil Crazy’Ole’s wish. But there was no “if” in history. Thirty years ago, Bair left the Isis Shrine, along with Troni and her sceptre, with the Gods’ Tear atop it.
Crazy’Ole added a digression when the story came to this point, “It’s said that Bair abducted the Adoratrice and forced her to leave, but I think that the Adoratrice went with him voluntarily. She had the Gods’ Tear. Even if she could not counter Bair, she would not be abducted if she fought to stay… Thirty years later, here in Duc, you discovered another Gods’ Tear. That girl, Maria, will be the new Adoratrice of the Isis Shrine. They finally have an Adoratrice again!”
That was another surprise to Amon, the question he cared the most escaped his lips, “Maria! She is going to be the Adoratrice! What is the Adoratrice, really?”
Crazy’Ole filled another goblet of wine for himself but didn’t drink it. He just swirled the goblet and said, “Patience! I’m just about to tell you……”
The major god of Ejypt was Horus, King of the Gods. The Pharaoh claimed himself to be the oracle of Horus in the world. The capital of Ejypt was the city of Tebes in Upper Ejypt. The Horus Shrine in Tebes was the major shrine of Ejypt, the centre of power across the entire empire. All the shrines in Ejypt were subject to it. The chief high priest of the Horus Shrine was, of course, the Pharaoh himself.
But the Pharaoh usually stayed in his palace and gave orders from there. Only in the important memorial ceremonies would he surmount the altar. So there was a chief executive priest that hosted the sacrifice ceremonies as the representative of the Pharaoh, Horus and the other gods. There were three high priests in charge of the daily affairs whose status were far higher than the high priests of other shrines.
There was also a group of high priests in the major Horus Shrine of Tebes. They held the highest positions in the empire. The Magic Senate and the Academy of Magic, the greatest authorities of magic, were established in the shrine too.
Upper Ejypt was located in the fertile valleys near the source of the Nile River. Another essential region of Ejypt was Lower Ejypt, situated in the delta zone at the mouth of the Nile River. Ejypt used to be divided into two countries and the capital of Lower Ejypt was Memfis. Then, the Pharaoh unified the two countries.
The major Shrine of Memfis was the Isis Shrine, which was also the most important shrine in Lower Ejypt. The chief priest of the Isis Shrine of Memfis was also the Pharaoh, symbolizing his sovereignty over Lower Ejypt. But it was the Adoratrice who gave sacrifices to the gods in name of the Pharaoh.
The major god in the Isis Shrine was, of course, Isis. According to the legends, she was Horus’ mother, the deity of prosperity and the patron of Memfis from ancient times. But there were other gods enshrined within the Isis Shrine. In the front hall of the shrine was a huge sculpture of Isis holding young Horus in her arms.
Isis was regarded as the Holy Mother in the entirety of Ejypt. There was a long tradition where one representative was chosen from the masses to give a sacrifice to Isis. The full title was “The Adoratrice and Guardian of Isis”. The Gods’ Tear on top of Her Majesty’s sceptre was the symbol of her identity. It represented Her Majesty’s loyalty, affection, mercy and blessing to the people of Ejypt.
The Adoratrice was pure and genuine. She devoted herself to Mother Isis. Thus no adult man should touch her body. They could only kiss the soil at her feet to show their respect.
The records in the Isis Shrine showed that thirty years ago, the Adoratrice annihilated an evil ninth-level sorcerer, but sadly fell in that battle as well. The Gods’ Tear on her sceptre was destroyed in the fierce fight. — This was the official explanation given by the authorities, precise and beyond question.
The evil sorcerer was of course Bair. This incident was called “Disaster of the Sorcerer”. But according to Crazy’Ole, the facts were that the honoured high priest, a ninth-level mage, abducted the Adoratrice with the Gods’ Tear. For the Empire of Ejypt, it touched the bottom line of the divine authorities and shook the foundation of the Empire.
The Pharaoh gave the strictest order to annihilate them. All the shrines in Lower Ejypt participated in the manhunt. At last, Bair had nowhere to hide in Ejypt. He crossed the desert and finally escaped to the mountainous region joining Assyr, Bablon, Hittite and Ejypt.
The Pharaoh sent a great number of mages and warriors across the border to kill him. None of them ever returned to Ejypt, nor did anyone hear of Bair or Troni since then.
After this incident, all records of Bair being the honoured high priest of the Isis Shrine and member of the Magic Senate were destroyed. In the current official records, he was an evil sorcerer, killed by Troni the Adoratrice at the cost of her own life.
The story ended. A long silence occupied the room. The old and the young had their own thoughts to sort.
Amon finally understood what the Adoratrice was and what Maria was going to be. Sadness occupied his heart. Though he knew that there would not be any future between Maria and him, a trace of grievance persisted in his mind. He could never stop thinking about her in his life. Amon gave a long sigh, a sigh that could not possibly be heard from a typical fourteen-year-old boy.
Amon went on to maintain the conversation, “You say that your student Bair, the supreme sorcerer, was very close to unveiling the secret of the gods. Do you have any evidence?”
Crazy’Ole answered absentmindedly, “The last message. He brought me that message thirty years ago. It confirmed many of my guesses of so many years. But I still don’t know how much he found. For example, the common knowledge about magic and body arts might be fundamentally wrong…! The magic and body arts may be the result of a deliberate separation. Most importantly, the key part is missing or hidden — which is probably the secret of a god’s divinity!”
[List of Characters]
Bair: Crazy’Ole’s student. A ninth-level sorcerer in the official records in Ejypt, eliminated by the then Adoratrice of Isis.
Troni: The Adoratrice of Isis thirty years ago. According the official records, she eliminated the evil sorcerer and died in the fight as well.