It was Lynk’s habit to have his mouth agape when shocked. But at this moment he mouth paralysed. His face turned red and his hair stood up. His nose sounded like it was chortling but his mouth failed to produce any words.
It was when Amon stepped forward and put the staff in his hands that he began to take it in. Falling to the ground, his nose meeting the soil, he greeted, “My god Amon! Please tell me I’m not dreaming!”
Lynk’s mouth had been watering since he saw Amon give Metatro that one parangon, but the staff in his hand had seven on it! Being a third-level mage himself, he deduced that the staff itself was even more precious than the parangons on it.
He didn’t have much concept of money since everyone bartered in the tribe. But a real staff wasn’t something a caveman like him could ever dream to possess.
He still couldn’t believe his eyes. Saluting to Amon, he rubbed his eyes, stroking and smelling the staff. Amon said gently, “I promised to give you a real staff. In fact, I should have given it to you two months ago.”
Lynk stared at the staff as if he coddling a child. He swallowed hard and asked, “It’s so precious! How would I dare to use such a treasure? Please keep it to yourself!”
Amon smiled and shook his hand, “Staffs are made to be used. A miner cannot wield two hammers at the same time. You need a real staff and I have others. I’ve stayed here for about two years. You and your men have been treating me and my cat with good food, regarding me as your god. I should give you more to thank you for your kindness.”
Lynk shook his head, “Please don’t say that! The entire tribe isn’t worth even half of this relic! Since you have other staffs, I will keep this one. Thank you my god Amon, for your kind favour!”
“Get up, please. The staff is yours now. Keep it well. The merit of this staff is that it doesn’t lean to a specific attribute. It amplifies the effect of all kinds of magic equally, and it’s fast. It’s much better than your bone. But beware that you shouldn’t rely too much on it when practising magic. Only use it to understand how a type of magic works.”
“I’ll keep it in mind!” nodded Lynk excitingly. “You’ve told me before not to use the bone staff when trying to master the skills. In truth, I didn’t feel much difference. But with a real staff, it’ll certainly be different! I promise to be careful. Metatro hasn’t visited for a good while now. He must be practising magic at home. He’ll die from envy when he sees this!”
Amon coughed and said, “Lynk, I gifted you this staff to better your practice of magic, not to show it off in front of others. You’ve been envious of Metatro since I gave him that parangon, and now you want him to envy you. If that’s what you care about the most, I would prefer to give you nothing.”
Lynk was startled and answered seriously, “I’ll definitely not do this again. I’ll only treasure it and use it but never to show off.” He put it deep into his embrace with great care.
Amon stretched out one hand and a battle axe with a crescent blade appeared in his hand from nowhere, glittering with silver lustre in the firelight. He handed it to Lynk, “I now give you a weapon. Axes should be the most useful in the mountains. You are a mage as well as a warrior. You should have a nice weapon too.”
Deeply moved, Lynk could hardly control his tears. He grasped the axe, mumbling. Amon didn’t want to say more about the gifts either. He waved his hand and said, “Let us sit down. Tonight, I will impart new knowledge onto you. I won’t repeat myself, so you must do well to memorise it.”
Amon taught Lynk every advanced magic he knew as was taught from the message in the Terroculus without the least bit of reservation. He even told him the methods to make magic artefacts and scrolls. Lynk had been learning writing throughout the past year. Amon had taught him the hieroglyphs along with the common writings so there was no difficulty teaching him the skills to make scrolls.
Amon also taught him the advanced body arts. Since Amon wasn’t good at body arts himself, he only taught Lynk the basics, a way to exercise one’s body so as to improve physical strength and the power in the bloodline. At last, he told Lynk solemnly, “I’ve helped you awaken the power of two sides. It was a unique path, different from any other practice. You are a sorcerer as well as a warrior. I think you know clearly what it means to be a sorcerer, don’t you?”
Lynk smiled, “Of course. But we are in my tribe, and we don’t care about that. You are our god, Amon!”
“You can say that here in the deep mountains,” Amon maintained his unsmiling demeanour. “Nobody is going to punish you for being a sorcerer. But should you leave the mountains one day to explore, you should remember not to show your magic power to the others, hence my warning of using your newly acquired staff for the sake of vanity. You learn magic to understand and use magic power, not to make others envy you.”
Lynk had been shaking and nodding his head a lot tonight. He continued to nod and replied, “I’ll keep it in mind. What else can I do for you, my god?”
Amon said imposingly, “The most important thing is that you can and shall only practise in the way I’ve taught you!”
Amon had his own reasons. Bair discovered the path to becoming a deity, which combined the practice of magic and body arts in a unique way and required the practitioner to overcome a battery of tests. Amon taught it to Lynk and hoped that Lynk would progress through the exact same way, without any deviations or errors. As Crazy’Ole had said, once the wrong path is taken, the further he went down it, the harder it would be for him to amend it.
Amon didn’t want to explain everything to Lynk. It was his own secret to keep. But Lynk didn’t ask anything else. He solemnly raised his staff and swore, “To me, there’s no god but Amon. You are my only god!”
It was a funny vow but Amon held back his laughter when he saw the genuine expression on Lynk’s face. He nodded and said, “You can understand it in this way. It will give you more confidence when you get further in the practice. I’m leaving tonight. I hope you will do well and take good care of your men.”
Lynk was taken aback. He stepped forward and asked with his eyes open wide, “You are leaving us now?”
“Yes, it’s time,” Amon nodded with sorrow. “I need to venture out. I cannot stay in the mountains forever. I have my own quest to fulfil.”
“Where are you going?”
“I will travel across the world. First, I will go to Bablon City to see Metatro.” He had never travelled before. Though he was planning to see the whole world, all he could think of was Metatro’s home. So that would be his first port.
Lynk said wistfully, “I want to travel with you too, to have a look at the outside world. But as the headman, I have to take care of my clansmen. Maybe one day I will pick a good boy to be the next headman and then I shall travel. But where can I find you? ”
“We’ll see in the future,” said Amon. “Even I myself do not know where I am going. You can stay here and wait for me to come back. If you really want to travel, you can always look for Metatro in Bablon City. But you will have to be careful.”
“You should be careful too!” Lynk grabbed Amon’s sleeve. But then he thought himself stupid because Amon, as his god, was almighty and shouldn’t have anything to be worried about. He thought over and added, “My god, there are many bad men outside. You should be careful of them!”
Amon squeezed his shoulder, “Thank you for reminding me. I have seen some of them. I know how to protect myself.” Amon had been growing fast in the past year. He was now just barely as tall as an adult Ducian. Though he didn’t look muscular, he had a strong and toned body.
Before he noticed, he was already half a head taller than Lynk. His old clothes were a little small for him. He was now wearing leather robes tailored by the best women in the tribe. Underneath the robe was a linen shirt. Covering his feet were a pair of well-knitted straw sandals.
The two bags Crazy’Ole had given him weren’t exquisite, but they were solid. There were no scratches on them. Putting the bigger bag over his shoulder, the smaller one in his embrace and with his staff in hand, Amon left the tribe that night.
Schrodinger was snoring in the bag. Amon had picked it up from the hay and put it in the bag. The cat had been unhappy in the past year. Amon had not heard it make a sound or write anything since they came back from the cave where they had found Bair. He tried to communicate with the cat many times, talking to it gently and patiently. Schrodinger just ignored him.
Lynk saw him off alone and decided to walk with him all the long way to the mountain, refusing to turn back. At last, Amon stood and said, “Go back, Lynk. It’s enough. You can’t go with me like this forever.”
Lynk’s eyes watered. He said pitifully, “Please don’t forget me, god Amon! It all feels like a dream to me, an amazing dream!”
Amon was sad to leave the cavemen too. He had spent two years with them, who regarded him as their deity and treated him with the best they could offer. They were already good friends of his. Before he could reply, some noise arose from the woods beside the path. It was the King Ironback. It came out from the shrubs with the four big ones, watching Amon, purring.
Amon turned to them and asked, “You come to see me off too? Please protect Lynk and his clansmen… You, as the head of the five, I’ll give you a name: El Mar… El Mar, I know you can learn magic. I’ll come back and see you.”
The King Ironback understood much of what Amon said. It nodded and purred, head lowered down to the ground. Schrodinger suddenly jumped out of the bag, watching the mountains far away in silence. Only Amon knew what it was watching; the cave they had found Bair in, even though it was out of sight.
“Schrodinger, we have to go,” Amon tried to persuade it. But the cat kept staring in the same direction, ignoring his words. That was the constant reaction Amon had received in the past year.
Amon asked with resignation, “Do you want to stay here or come with me? To tell you the truth, I don’t want to go without you! But if you want to stay, then let’s part here.”
There seemed to be a trace of hesitation that flashed in the cat’s eyes, then it made its decision: it jumped back into the bag on Amon’s back and slept, or at least pretended to.
It was very dangerous to cross the mountains at night. But for Amon who had mastered Detection Eyes, everything was as clear as if it was the peak of noon. To him, there wasn’t a difference. As for the wild animals, he needn’t worry about them unless they were as amazing as Schrodinger.
Advanced mages were regarded with great reverence in every city on the continent. However, as a sorcerer who had just left a cave, Amon didn’t share any of their customs, good or bad. He went on an entirely different path. For example, an esteemed mage wouldn’t take the risk to travel in the mountains at night, casting detection magic all the way without a staff, wasting his energy and magic power for nothing.
Perhaps in their eyes, what Amon was doing was bizarre, just as the same way Schrodinger was in Amon’s eyes.
Amon was trying to cross the mountains and get to the lower reaches of the Euphrate River, where the border between Hittite and Bablon lay and the valleys met the desert. The river became broad and quiet. If he could find a ferry, he could cross over it and go to Bablon City. It was a long journey. Amon walked for half a month before he saw the first signs of human habitation. They were not cavemen, but villagers of the Bablon Kingdom.
His shoes were already worn. On his feet was another pair that Lynk had prepared for him. In the tribe, he was the only person who could wear shoes all the time besides Lynk. The shoes were well-made but still couldn’t withstand such a long walk without rest.
He had brought enough food with him, including a good amount of tasty jerky made of different kinds of meat, as well as dried vegetable and beans. They were all stored in the rib. Every day at nightfall, Amon stopped and made a small pot of nice soup for Schrodinger, since he knew that the cat was used to having meals in the dusk. Schrodinger would wake up in low spirits and finish the soup to the last drop.
After two weeks’ of trudging, Amon neared the edge of the mountains. He suddenly realized that he might have made a mistake. He had been always trying so hard to avoid the wild animals and other caveman tribes the whole way, that he even subconsciously kept himself away from every livable place. That was why he hadn’t encountered anyone until this moment.
He wasn’t a fugitive. He was a traveller about to explore the entire continent. Metatro’s home wouldn’t be the end terminal of his journey. He wanted to make contact with the outside, to learn more of this world, especially of the people. Thinking of it, Amon changed his direction and left the moor, going towards the bank of the Euphrate River, which should be more populated.
Amon had skipped several villages before he changed his mind, but now he failed to find any trace of human life after a whole night’s walk. At sunrise, he heard the river running. Climbing over a hill, he was met abruptly with the sight of the grand Euphrate River. Beside it was small rolling hills covered in grass. Grazing sheep could be seen from afar, like clouds floating in a green sky.
Saying goodbye to the mountains in his heart, Amon stretched his arms and took a deep breath. The beautiful scene improved his mood. Suddenly, a woman’s voice came to his ears, which piqued his curiosity. It was nice to hear a human voice after the lonely journey, but the woman was sobbing sadly.
Schrodinger stretched out its head from the bag, turning its ears, and frowned like a perplexed person. Then it shrunk back in and closed the bag with its paws. Who knew if it was trying to hide from the weeping noise or something else.
Passing a grassy hill, Amon saw a young woman. She wore a flax robe and donned a pair of straw sandals. She was sitting at the foot of the hill, covering her face with her hands and weeping so terribly that her shoulders couldn’t cease trembling.
“Why are you crying? What happened to you? Can I do something for you?” asked Amon.
The young woman was frightened by the sudden voice. She stood up in a hurry, stepped back and asked confusedly, “Who are you? I don’t know you. How do you come to this place?”
Amon did look weird. The weather was hot, but he still wore a leather robe, with a rod in hand that looked like an old man’s walking stick.
Amon was startled as well. He swore that he didn’t know this young lady, but somehow she looked familiar to him. He was quite sure that he had never met her before. Seeing her panic, he immediately introduced himself, “I’m a hunter. I was tracing a goat in the mountain, but somehow lost my way and got here. Can you tell me where the nearest town is? In return, if you are in any trouble, I will help you as much as I can.”
The young woman took another step back, holding her arms before her chest, grasping her robe, lowering her head and replied shyly, “You… you… why are you staring at me like that?”
Finding her familiar but failing to recognize her, Amon’s eyes scanned her from top to bottom out of curiosity. As a young man, his gaze caused a misunderstanding.
Since the young woman uncovered her face when she stood up, Amon began to realize how beautiful she was. An unnameable lovely coyness exuded from her face as well as her body. Her forearms and legs showed under the loose worn robe. Her delicate skin glittered attractively. The impeccable gentle curve of her hips gave a slight hint of maturity of her young energetic body.
She held her posture, tightening her robe, highlighting the shape of her firm breasts and revealed alluring cleavage, making her questioning gesture more like flirtation. Unfortunately, Amon had no experience with flirting. He didn’t even have much of a concept of it. What he realized was only that it was not very polite to stare at a strange woman.
So, Amon began trying to explain, “Please pardon my rudeness. You are the first person I’ve met in half a month. And somehow, I find you familiar. I heard your crying so I came by and asked if you need any help. This place is quite out of the way. Why are you here alone? What happened?”
The young woman seemed to be curious as well. She raised her bright eyes and threw a luscious glance to the young man in front of her, “My name is Inanna. I herd sheep beside the river. But a lamb of my herd disappeared and I can’t find it. My master would punish me if I went back without it. I was crying, for I am going to suffer from the lash… My kind young hunter, how should I address you? Could you help me find my lost lamb?”