Thirty years ago, when the Empire of Ejypt learned that Bair had crossed the border through Cape and traversed the desert to flee towards the Euphrate River, the Pharaoh ordered a team of top mages and warriors to pursue him, and addressed a note to Hittite, asking the states near the Euphrate River to provide assistance.
Thus, the kingdom of Hittite issued a decree and symbolically sent it to the states. It was a perfunctory reaction. The decree urged the local administration to send warriors to pursue Bair, without mentioning the consequences of not doing so. The local officials knew perfectly that finding a supreme sorcerer was highly unrealistic and suicidal. So the best they could do was collect and transmit information.
Duc had received the decree as well. And apparently, they didn’t have any news about Bair. Nor could they send the miners and blacksmiths to pursue a supreme sorcerer. So no action was taken and as such, no consequence.
Later, the Isis Shrine claimed that Bair was eliminated by Troni the Adoratrice, but the authorities were obsessively secretive about the events. So the affair was sealed and became history. However, a leftover problem had slipped everyone’s attention. The decree issued by Hittite was irreversible, indeed, hadn’t been cancelled since. Although nobody needed to do anything, for the affair was over.
More interestingly, Duc had only just received the decree to assist pursuing Bair. Ejypt did not intend to inform Hittite that Bair had officially been eliminated, and neither did Hittite inform such to its local administrations. Technically, Duc knew nothing about the after story. And such was indeed the case for most Ducians. They didn’t even know the existence of the decree, let alone Bair. But today, Dusti had dredged up history and found a valid decree to announce.
The Ducians were shocked. Who was this Bair? He seemed to be a sorcerer that was being hunted by Ejypt and Hittite. So he must be very dangerous. Why should Duc send anybody, given that there were so many warriors and mages out there? Why was the mayor so keen on it? Even if he wanted to please the high lords of the state, there were many better options.
Among the whispers, Nietzsche stepped forward and asked, “My dear mayor, who is this brave you are talking about?”
Dusti pointed emotionlessly to a corner of the crowd, “The one loved by the goddesses. We have all witnessed the miracle he has enacted, and we know how he was blessed by the goddesses. Amon, you are the chosen one!”
Amon had understood fully just as Dusti announced that decree. It was a plot by Crazy’Ole and Golier. Dusti was looking for an excuse to send him out of Duc, or exile him. But the other Ducians did not know about it. Some of them protested, “What? Amon? Are you sending a boy to kill a sorcerer?”
It was ridiculous enough sending a boy into the jungle, let alone to fight a sorcerer. If it had been said by someone else, the crowd would have taken it as a joke.
Dusti rebutted, “Do you want to go in his stead?”
The protest was instantly snuffed, but a single man shakily walked out of the crowd and kneeled down in front of the mayor, “Please send me…”
It was Amon’s father, sober for once. Dusti looked at him and asked coldly, “Are you a brave? Have you been blessed by the goddess? Sorry, I’ve made up my mind. Amon is the one.”
Amon’s father struggled to speak, but Amon and Crazy’Ole helped him stand, whispering to him. He started, but finally nodded and gave up his objection.
Thus, the deal was made. Amon was chosen as the brave of Duc. He would enter the jungle and go after the evil sorcerer Bair, executing the decree issued by the kingdom. The mayor gave Amon two hours to pack before he set out and forbade anyone going out of the town to see him off.
So to supervise the order, Dusti accompanied Amon home after the crowd had dispersed. It was the first time in Amon’s memory that the mayor visited his home. Also, as the “chosen brave of Duc”, he ought to receive his due. The mayor gave him a bag of money and a dagger in name of the Ducians.
The brave also had to spend money on his journey, and he needed a weapon as well. The dagger Amon received was well-made, wrought with fine iron. It was sharp and solid, tough yet tensile. It was just a bit short, coming out to less than one foot long including the handle. It appeared more like a skinning knife than a weapon against a supreme sorcerer.
Amon did not have many things to take with him. He just took the stick and two sheepskin bags. The smaller one, for valuables, was carried around his chest and the bigger one for ordinary things was tossed over his shoulder. He was leaving the twenty parangons to his father, but his father insisted that he carry half to spend outside.
Dusti said, “Amon’s expenditure should be supported by the town. I’ve brought him the money.”
Amon’s father opened the bag and found five parangons, five gold parans, ten silver coins and dozens of copper coins. Amon glanced at the bag and took out the five parangons, “Keep them, dad. The rest is enough for me.”
Amon’s father shook his head, “You take the parangons, I keep the others. That’s more convenient.”
Dusti felt he had to say something, “You don’t know the outside world, drunkard. In the inns outside, a goblet of wine only costs a copper coin. With a parangon, you can easily buy the whole inn. He has to have some small change. That’s convenient and won’t get him into trouble!”
A parangon cost twenty gold parans, or four hundred silver coins. And each silver coin equalled a hundred copper coins. If Amon paid a goblet of wine with a parangon, the inn had to pay him thirty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine copper coins as change!
Amon’s father couldn’t close his mouth. In Duc, he had to pay the inn a silver coin for a bottle of wine, which could merely fill his small goblet five times. He hesitated a while and said, “My boy, you really should go outside!”
Amon eventually took the whole bag of money after Dusti had left the house, his father keeping the twenty parangons. Amon’s father was enlightened by Dusti and asked Amon to bring with him the thirty silver coins from Judah.
Crazy’Ole and Amon had told this drunkard that Dusti was just using an excuse to get Amon out of the town, in order to avoid revenge from Shog, that everything was arranged, and that Amon would be back in a few weeks so there was nothing to worry about. No one knew what was spoken between the father and son. Amon left the house with a bottle of wine, which was the best bottle of wine from his father.
The Ducians crowded Amon the brave to the eastern edge of town to see him off, watching him disappear into the woods through the wriggling path. The path was left by hunters and those who picked wild fruits and herbs in the jungle. It led to the high mountains and deep valleys, covered with dense shady forests. The Euphrate River crossed the mountains around sixty miles away from Duc.
In the remote mountains lived the cavemen, who, in Bablon, were also called dwarfs. But Crazy’Ole told Amon that they were just like people in Duc or other places. The harsh environment and lack of civilization had simply shortened their height and life expectancy.
Amon knew that Crazy’Ole was right. There were cavemen in Duc as well. They came out of the jungle to trade with the Ducians because they could always get the best iron ore sand. They should be the smartest ones, understanding the Ducians’ preference and managing to find their way to Duc. They could speak the common language of the outside world, though only with a limited vocabulary.
The mine to the north of Duc even hired strong cavemen to help quarry iron ore. They were good miners and weren’t that much different from Ducians. Hardly would anyone think they were just ‘barbarians from the mountains’. However, those living in the mountains were dangerously barbaric hunters who attacked the Ducians and passersby from time to time.
The Ducians hardly went far when hunting in the jungle. Crazy’Ole was the only Ducian who had ever reached the canyon of Euphrate River. Amon did not know where he was going. Crazy’Ole just told him to leave town. If he followed the path, he would enter the heart of the mountains.
However, Amon advanced without any hesitation. He just kept an eye out as if he was waiting for someone to show up. Crazy’Ole said that he had several things to tell him after he left, but Amon did not see him nor Dusti in the crowd.
The path extended into the jungle along the sharp hills. The shadows cast by the big trees everywhere created coolness even in hot weather. The sunshine sprinkled jumping dots on the small path that was perforated by thick bushes with thorns and nameless flowers of all colours. Some distant chirps broke the tension hidden behind the fragrant quietness, shattering the illusion of a lone walker in the deep mountains.
Amon walked and walked. Behind him, the town of Duc had long faded into the distance. The path became steeper and harder to discern. Passing a turn and climbing up a hill, Amon found Mayor Dusti and Crazy’Ole waiting for him under a big tree.
Amon came to them, “Lord Dusti, Mister Nietzsche, are you waiting for me? Do you have anything to tell me?”
Crazy’Ole told him yesterday not to call him teacher, so Amon called him Mister Nietzsche before Dusti. Crazy’Ole did not speak but instead stared at Dusti. Lazily lying beside his feet was Schrodinger the cat. Dusti coughed and forced himself to pull out a bag, “Amon, as the brave of Duc, you should have your reward. I give you this as my personal gift. I found it inappropriate to show it publicly. ”
Crazy’Ole added in a cynical tone, “This is the personal gift that Rod Drick gave to Mayor Dusti as a reward for acquiring the Gods’ Tear in Duc. Mayor Dusti has now passed it on to you, which I believe is the right thing to do. After all, he has received much more from Lord Drick, and you just got thirty silver coins and a narrow escape from losing a finger.”
Crazy’Ole took the liberty of the privacy to speak straightforwardly. It was the first time Amon saw Mayor Dusti flushed with embarrassment. The gifts from Dusti were two certificates, each wrapped in a well-made waterproof leather sleeve. They were both signed and issued by Rod Drick, governor and oracle of the state Cape of the Empire of Ejypt.
The certificates were written on high-quality papyrus. The papyrus was made from the wetland sedge abundant in the marsh of the Nile delta, whose sticky fibrous inner pith was cut lengthwise into thin strips, then layered, pressed and dried into sheets. It was the most luxurious writing material on this continent, and one of the most important exports of Ejypt. The high-quality papyrus used to write these certificates were only for formal documents.
Amon could read. He recognized that one of them was the certificate of identification of an Ejyptian citizen, authenticated by Rod Drick’s signature and the seal of Cape, but the place for the name was vacant. Anyone who obtained this certificate could write their name on it and acquire the citizenship of Ejypt. Rod Drick had given Dusti a precious gift.
Dusti was already an Ejyptian citizen, but he could give it to others as a big favour. It was very thoughtful of Rod Drick to leave such a document that Dusti could use at his discretion.
The other was a passport of the Empire of Ejypt, which was very useful for traders. They needed it to do business across the countries, otherwise, they would be blocked at customs or even arrested as a spy. Apparently, Rod Drick left it for Dusti to facilitate his clandestine business. Now, encouraged, or rather forced by Crazy’Ole, Dusti gave it to Amon.
“My child, the commissioner from the capital will arrive in three days with the decision to punish you. I found an excuse to get you out of town. With these, you won’t have any identity problems. But, the road before you is tough and dangerous, so take care of yourself… Don’t thank me. It is I who should, in turn, thank you. I wouldn’t have gained so much had you not discovered the Gods’ Tear. Even Shog has obtained a fortune… Maybe you still have something to say to Mister Nietzsche. I’m returning to town, and see if there’s anyone following you. ”
Dusti left. Crazy’Ole stared after him and said, “Dusti’s a good man. You should thank him! Although he ought to have given these to you since he’s made a fortune from your discovery, it was not necessary for him to do so. When someone does something for you, you should be grateful even if it’s what he ought to do, because every decision has its cost. Remember this, my boy.”
Amon nodded, “I will. Do you have anything else for me to do?”
Crazy’Ole pointed at Schrodinger, “Bring this cat with you.”