The night before he left Mount Horeb, Amon taught Moses what he should know about the path of practice and the coming tests he was going to face. They partly came from Bair’s message, and partly came from Amon’s own experience. Bair’s experience was slightly different than Amon’s, he was first taught the power of two sides, becoming a first-level warrior and sorcerer, then practiced magic and became a ninth-level mage, and eventually went from the beginning again, achieving the sixth-level on the path of power of two sides.
Amon’s struggles and reality were different. From the beginning, he followed the path of power of two sides all the way to the sixth level. This path was discovered by Crazy’Ole from the technique of Duc and furthered by Bair. When Amon taught it to Moses, it was already a clear path.
Amon didn’t teach the young miner any martial arts or magic skills. He wanted him to solely focus on the practice of the power itself. On one hand, there wasn’t much time, and on the other hand, it was not convenient for Moses to practice martial arts or magic skills as a miner in front of the guards and the priests. Even the practice itself had to be kept a secret.
Lastly, Amon told his new disciple, “If you want to break out of your misery, you need to be strong yourself. There will be all kinds of hardships and dangers in your way back home. You have to be prepared. All I teach you comes from the technique of Duc. So you can also teach it in turn to your fellow clansmen whom you can trust. But they need to make the same vow at first.”
The seeds were sown. What was needed now was time to see them bud and grow. Amon left Mount Horeb with the parangons and escorting guards. He perfectly accomplished the mission. For him, however, the most important and meaningful thing about this journey was finding the surviving Ducians. Maria didn’t tell him where they were, she sent him to them instead.
Maria summoned him again shortly after he returned to the shrine. The meeting was held in the same study room as previously. The servants were told to leave, following which, instead of making a report about his inspection to the mine, Amon got on his knees and greeted, “Thank you! I finally found the surviving Ducians! I owe a favor to the mayor, who wished his son could go home. His son is now the leader of the surviving Ducians. And they all want to go home.”
Maria looked at him. There was regret in her eyes. She raised her hand, “Please have a seat. I know what you want from me, but I am sorry, I cannot give orders to release them. They are the Pharaoh’s slaves. You must have the Pharaoh’s permission for that.”
Amon took a seat and asked, “You told me to read books about the art of war. Does it have something to do with this?”
The Adoratrice nodded, “If you just wanted to pursue personal happiness, all you needed was to become a great warrior and plead loyalty to the Empire. You could certainly have obtained a noble title and lived a good life. And that applies to most everywhere in this world. But I know there are other things you long for, which can prove to be very demanding and hard to achieve. The rich and fertile land newly emerging after the flood will bring wars and conflicts to the territory. If you can perform outstanding achievements in the service of the Empire on the battlefield, you will have the chance to request the Pharaoh to release your clansmen.”
“Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I think I know what to do.”
It was indeed a way to save his fellow men. War exploits could not only bring one a nobiliary title, but also the chance to be granted a boon by the Pharaoh, by way of granting freedom to some enslaved miners.
But it would still be challenging, even with Maria’s help. It mostly depended on himself. Becoming a supreme warrior was just the beginning…
Staring at each other, looking into the other’s eyes, the two fell into silence again. Maria was supposed to tell Amon about the details of the mission to Duc, but seeing his eyes, she felt that there was nothing really important to say. The assignment was not important now. As for Amon, he had a lot of gratitude in his heart. But he knew that he didn’t need to say it out loud. He preferred to just stay like that, watching her eyes, her face, listening to her every breath.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t sit there watching her for ever. It was Maria who broke the silence this time, “No matter how difficult it will be, Amon, I wish for you to take care of yourself. If you have done your best and yet don’t succeed, don’t blame yourself. As long as you have a pure heart, you can come back to me anytime. Mother Isis will protect you.”
She put a small box on the table, “I was planning to send a mage to this mission. This Terroculus was the necessary tool to record the information and the reward for the mission. But then I changed my mind. A warrior is more suitable for this kind of task. So I decided to send you.”
“I still give you this Terroculus as the reward for this mission. You are not a mage. But I believe you have your own way to record. Remember: you are on a secret undertaking, so you shouldn’t use your own name. A blank certificate of identification and a passport will be given to you, which will be valid once you put a name on them. You can also hire bodyguards. You should be leaving in a few days. Go get ready and be careful. I am waiting for your good news. As for the Terroculus, I hope you can keep it.”
It was a great compensation for such a quest. The largesse would have made sense if the mission had been taken by a mage, but Amon was known as a warrior, which made the meaning of this windfall deeper.
Amon already had a Terroculus, in which Crazy’Ole had stored a lot of messages. Perhaps Maria was doing the same thing. Since Amon was only a warrior, Maria wasn’t expecting him to read any of the messages, if there was any. But Amon was a sixth-level sorcerer, and he was good at spatial and message magics.
There must be something inside this Terroculus, that was Amon’s guess. But he didn’t dare to read it in the Isis Shrine, for using magic here might expose him as a sorcerer. He decided to go to the Archive. He had some handover works to do, and he surely wouldn’t want to miss the chance to read some more documents.
He was not planning on returning the books on the art of war any time soon, since Metatro could read them as well. If he was going to be commanding an army, he would certainly need an adjutant, and Metatro was a good candidate. He even borrowed some more texts on the art of war. Anyway, he could store them all in Osiris’ Rib and read them while on the journey.
The day before he left, he patrolled the Archive and went to read the document “Marduc’s Land” once again. The first time he read it, he was in a hurry and too excited, so this time he read it with plenty of care and concentration, committing every word to memory. At the end of the text, he saw a familiar seal. He took out the token given by Crazy’Ole and compared the two. They were the same! But the one on the papyrus appeared to be stamped in a hurry. It was just a vague insignia, almost unrecognizable.
Voices came from outside. It was some of the other watchmen talking and saluting. Amon hastily put the file back in the drawer and set the magic seal back. As soon as he turned around and made his first step outside, a voice arose behind the shelves, “Officer, you dropped something.”
Amon shuddered with a start. Calm as he usually was, he almost knocked over the drawers beside him. He wasn’t expecting that anybody else would be in this storage room of precious documents. Access to it was denied to anyone without proper authority or permission. What really shocked him was that, although he kept vigilant while in there, he failed to notice the coming of this person. He turned around quickly in fright, producing two daggers from his waist and posing himself for attack and defense in the narrow space between the shelves.
But the next second, he got on one knee and saluted, “Please pardon me, my Lord. I didn’t realize that you came into this room.”
In front of him was a middle-aged man wearing a surplice. He looked at Amon with a meaningful smile. Instead of a staff, there was a token in his hand, “Is this badge yours? I saw it on the ground. Please take it back.”
Amon was familiar with this man: He was Idu, the former Senior Priest in charge of the Archive. After Urhiya was appointed to stay in Cape, he was promoted as the new High Priest by the Adoratrice. Idu was not as ambitious as his predecessor, he was quite satisfied with taking care of the old documents and scripts. Coming from a small town, he didn’t have a powerful clan behind. He was rewarded as Honored High Priest after he became a supreme mage. Once entering the Isis Shrine, he led a secluded life, staying away from politics. Right before Amon arrived in Memfis, he unobtrusively ascended to the eighth level.
There were eight supreme mages in the Isis Shrine besides the three High Priests. They were given the title of Honored High Priest besides that of Senior Priest, and enjoyed a high regard and authority. Idu, who was one of them, always kept a low profile. When the Adoratrice pushed his name forward when selecting the new High Priest, the Senate and the Pharaoh approved this promotion unanimously.
Once Idu had become a High Priest, the post of the Curator of the Archive that he held when he was a Senior Priest was taken by someone else. However, Idu still had strong control over the Archive. He was now in charge of all the documents of the Isis Shrine, not only those in the Archive , but also those about the slaves, the lands, and the taxes, which meant the power he currently had was much more than before. Nevertheless, his character didn’t change much.
Looking at his smiling face, Amon subconsciously put his hand into his pocket, and found it empty. The token was gone! He felt himself soaked in cold sweat.
It was impossible for him to drop the token. He was sure that he had put it into his pocket, but now it was in the supreme mage’s hand. The High Priest must have entered the room stealthily and taken away the token from Amon before he realized he was even there. He must have seen Amon reading the files, and with the token in hand too.
However, the supreme mage pretended knowing nothing and affirmed that it was Amon who had dropped the token on the ground. With all the great pains he went through to be careful all this time, he finally made a mistake. Facing a supreme mage who he couldn’t counter by any means, Amon couldn’t be any more nervous. He was still busy racking his brains for an excuse when he heard Idu’s words. Thinking quickly, he answered, “Indeed it is mine. Thank you, Lord Idu. I must have dropped it by accident.”
The supreme mage kept an inscrutable expression and gave the token back to Amon, “Very unusual token. It must be a precious keepsake. Things like this should be kept with care. And please pardon my curiosity, but would you kindly tell me: who did you get this gadget from? It seems to be crafted and processed in a unique way that not many would be able to emulate.”
The young guard had a feeling that those smiling eyes were piercing his soul, he tried to calm down and answered, “It was a gift from an elder of my hometown, who has passed away.”
The smile left Idu’s face, “Oh, he’s passed away…? That’s unfortunate.”
Amon didn’t need to lie about this, “Haven’t you heard about it? My hometown was destroyed by the flood. The elder who has gifted me this token didn’t survive the disaster.”
The supreme mage sighed, “I’m sorry to bring up such bad memories. I should’ve remembered that you’re from the town of Duc and you’re the young man who has extracted the Gods’ Tear and has returned Nero’s effects to Cape. You are an honorable young man. By the way, I heard that Nero had a remarkable private collection of magic scrolls which I believe he still kept mostly with him, even in his last moments. I was wondering if you would have any idea about one such scroll called ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’?”
Amon thought for a short while and replied, “Lord Nero did leave very generous gifts after him. I was given six supreme scrolls and six advanced ones, but none of them is called ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’. I have never heard of this name before.”
Idu nodded, “Please don’t mind it then. It’s just the thirst of knowledge from an old pedant. ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’ is the name of a kind of scroll that only exists in legends. Many don’t even have the chance to hear its name. As far as I know, Nero was the only scrollmaker who had the skill and the ambition to produce one. But that item requires tremendous efforts and rare materials. I don’t know whether he had ever succeeded in his life. Oh, since you are here, please do me a favor.”
Amon replied hurriedly, “Please tell me what I can do for you, dear Lord.”
“I’m an old man. Age has worsened my memory. I was here to look for a document. But apparently I got to the wrong room. I’ll tell you the code number of the document. Please bring it to my place later. The document was locked in a drawer. You should go to the Curator to ask for the key. Tell him that old Idu needs to read a document from there.”
Telling Amon the code number, the supreme mage turned around and walked out of the room, leaving the watchman alone with the token. Amon found that the cold sweat had yet to dissipate. Feeling a bit chilly, he shook his head as if trying to shake off the fear and malaise from his head, then ran off to fetch the document for the High Priest.
For once, having the right key and not having to sneakily break and reset the seal, Amon easily opened the drawer. When he took out the required record, he was surprised. The document was thin. It was about the production and use of magic scrolls. On the cover page was written ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’. It was the very name of the scroll that Idu had mentioned just now. Amon couldn’t help opening it and started reading where he stood. He almost forgot to breathe. He finally realized how precious and dangerous that nameless grey scroll he possessed was!
Inside the document there was the procedure to fabricate a ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’. It required materials he hadn’t even heard of, supreme magic skills, sublime craftsmanship and painstaking efforts. The possibility seemed to only exist in paper, but Amon believed that Nero managed to bring this concept into reality. ‘Tiamat’s Wrath’ was nothing like any other scroll. Without the proper knowledge, merely activating it would cost the user’s life. Once ignited, it was not possible for the user to control its immense might, unless he was a deity. The power would destroy everything in its range, even gods wouldn’t be able to defend against it. Even for the user, the very possibility to avoid it was only in the theoretical realm.
If Amon was resolved to sacrifice his life, using this scroll, he could drag almost anyone to death together with him! He understood why the gatekeeper of the Underworld would flee like a scared bird when he saw Amon holding the grey scroll. Nero must have been planning to die together with Bair when he joined the manhunt. However, in the end he didn’t have the need to use it, since that same Bair chose to bury himself along with his pursuers in the first place.
The document only had a few pages. Amon finished reading it in less than a minute, put it into an exquisite wooden case and carried it to the chamber where Idu used to deal with official business. The High Priest was waiting inside. Seeing Amon coming in, he smiled and nodded, “You are fast. I have just sat down. Thank you, young officer. Please put it on the desk.”
Amon placed the case on the desk and withdrew to one side, hands behind his back. But he didn’t leave the room, neither did Idu open the case. After a short while, the High Priest raised his head from a closed folder and asked with feigned astonishment, “You are still here, Amon. Do you have anything else?”
“Yes, dear Lord. You have not checked the document yet. I await for further instructions.”
Idu told the servants to leave and close the door. He then said, “I have the utmost trust in you, officer. So there’s no need to check. Now that there’s only you and me, please feel free to speak your mind.”
The young guard took out two supreme scrolls from his pocket and gently placed them on the desk, “These two scrolls were part of the last bestowal I was conferred by the will of Lord Nero. I hereby present them to you to express my admiration, my Lord. I hope you will find them to your liking.”
Idu didn’t expect Amon to bring him a present like this. He was startled, but soon laughed and stroked his beard, “Do you know how much they are worth, Amon?”
The young guard answered, “It depends on who is going to use them. I do not think their value can be measured by money. To an esteemed supreme mage like you, magic scrolls are just tools that help you save your time and power.”
The High Priest watched the young man with great interest, “I’ve experienced a lot in my life and I know what people are thinking. You won’t be relieved unless I take them. So then, thank you, Amon!” He took the scrolls with equanimity.
Amon let out a sigh of relief. He had been worrying about Idu’s reaction. Fortunately, Idu almost brought it out into the open, inferring that he knew what Amon was asking for, and just took his conferment.
[List of Characters]
Idu : Supreme mage. The new High Priest of the Isis Shrine replacing Urhiya.