Chapter Thirteen: Commander Vorm’s Visit
If Valerian wasn’t a prince before he was now. His current way of life would make many so green with envy they’d turn black. He only ate food made from spirit herbs and daemon meat. His drinks consisted of juice from special plants, fruits and daemon milk. He had two precious baths a day. One; a mineral bath filled with precious salts and essence crystals and the other; an evening bath containing herbal remedies. Then there were the elixirs and pills he took like sweets.
All of this was done with the intention of aiding his cultivation. The medicines were to help with the tellurian practitioner tier. They were precious aids that worked alongside cultivation to enable a person speed through the initial stages. However Valerian did not cultivate as a tellurian. He just popped the pills and relied on them releasing their effects in his body.
Every day, Avery would give him some pills to take at different times of the day. He administered the baths, prepared the precious ingredients and rubbed a special balm on his body that strengthened the amount of world essence that he could absorb.
Funnily, he was only told that they would help him with his cultivation. The true reason was not actually explained to Valerian. He was still a child. It wasn’t everything that was told to children. Nor did he have to be consulted about every decision made concerning him. That would be stupid. Why then should he have guardians? He understood that but he had to wonder. If he did not know the truth beforehand, would he truly have accepted their answer at face value?
Probably not. He still had ears and could easily overhear the servants. Apparently the actions his grandparents had taken had garnered attention. None of them had seen or heard of someone using so many precious substances. In fact, the sheer amount that was used on him each day made many of them feel faint.
One had even remarked that he now understood why his grandfather was referred to as a wastrel by some of the clan members. He too had been fed such precious resources and for years without making any progress whatsoever. His father had even gone as far as to hire an alchemist and a cleric to monitor and help him with the intention of curing his condition but had no success.
And now he seemed to be on the same route. Nevertheless, Valerian tried not to let the comments affect him. In fact, Foreson and some of the other elders had come over to question his grandfather over his movements and purchases. They were turned away of course but they did not go quietly. One had announced loudly that if the magistrate wanted to waste his money he was welcome to do so.
Valerian would not let that happen. Even now, sitting at table with his family and eating such precious foods whilst they ate food that was so much inferior to his own made him incredibly uncomfortable. The only reason he ate was because he did not want their efforts to go to waste. In addition to this he trained even harder.
He put his all into everything and often had to be helped into his special baths as he would be too tired to do anything. If he wasn’t training he was cultivating his arcane energy. If he was doing neither he had a book in his hands reading on the arcane in preparation for his lessons with Jonas. Even Richard was honestly impressed and taken aback by his ferocity and progress.
Everyone noticed his efforts and commented on them wondering what had gotten into him. As if it wasn’t obvious.
There were literally people with eyes trained on the manor, waiting for him to fail. They had not missed the opportunity to mock his family even more now that they purchased precious cultivation resources so outrageously. The only thing they’d like better now was for their assertions to be proved true. He would not give them that chance.
A troop of men marched towards the gates of DaleGuard with a swift, purposeful stride. There were at least two hundred people in the troop all of whom carried weapons of some kind. Some were clad in full sets of armour while others only had a few pieces but all wore dangerous looks on their faces. They stormed towards the walled city seemingly without care.
Anyone would tell you that was a foolish action. Those walls were not there for show. They were a hundred meters tall and twenty meters thick. Built from a dark stone that was as strong as tempered steel and specially constructed to enhance the city’s defensive capabilities.
They were also enchanted to not only be stronger but prevent cultivators, no matter how skilled, from being able to manipulate its material as well. They could try but they’d always fail. This was the work of the kingdom’s top earth attributed arcanists. All in all, the walls were a fitting testament to the city’s name.
One must never forget that it was and still is a fortified city created with the purpose of guarding the openings in the surrounding mountain ranges that led to the Kingdom of Bathar. While the former viscount may have expanded both the city’s limits and purposes, it still remained the headquarters of all military forces in the region.
This meant that not only were its walls nigh unbreachable, its battlements and guard towers just waited for the chance to unleash their wrath on any who dared have inappropriate thoughts towards the people and land it sought to protect. Also, the sheer number of cultivators behind the walls alone would have most would be attackers revise their decision to do so.
Even so, the armed force continued at their pace toward the city. A closer look at their ranks revealed why they were so daring despite daunting DaleGuard looming over them. They were bearing the standards of the kingdom and of Cragsveil. Clearly, they belonged to the Viscount’s forces. Thus, when they marched up to the gate no one rained arrows or spells on them. Instead the gates remained opened for them to come in.
The man at the head of this procession led his men in amid salutes from the soldiers stationed at the gates. Not stopping, he headed for a section of the city clearly marked for military accommodation. There he dismissed his soldiers amid cheers. They quickly dispersed going to their homes and families. In the midst of this, a new squad came up to meet him, their leader coming close to converse in terse whispers.
The leader of the troops was obviously not an ordinary character. He wore a bright silvery helm. It was a beautiful, ornate thing with a single sheet of metal covering his neck and face. It shielded his cheeks whilst leaving only a hard strip covering his nose. The dome of the helmet was also a strange affair with the front displaying a large horn after which a plume of metal bristles began ending in the back with a short tassel. The rest of his armour run along similar lines.
His shoulders and torso were covered in the same decorated silvery metal and he wore large gauntlets that extended to his elbows. The only other pieces he wore were tassets, poleyns, greaves and sabatons all silvery as well. One did not have to examine the StormHawk emblazoned on his left breast to know he was Steelborn.
The two men exchanged harsh whispers before the silver clad man reared his mount and turned to trot away. Five mounted knights from him original troop immediately followed him along with the new squad and their leader.
The armed men rushed straight to Magistrate Valan’s courtyard. There the sound of stomping from the mounts and armed men was heard through most of the household causing many to come out to see the arrivals. They were unafraid because the guardsmen had not stopped them so they were probably not enemies. Still, they were somewhat cautious.
The watchers were treated to the sight of seven mounted dragoons and a squad of infantrymen. The lead dragoon was a man in silvery Steelborn armour atop a massive Hoarfrost Spikesaur. The beast was gigantic, a full metre and half at its withers and fourteen metres from head to tail. Covered in large, dense white scales it was a fearsome beast.
Armoured, fast, with incredible stamina and the ability to use ice attributed attacks, it was a perfect battle mount. It was also a daemon, a special beast that was like to normal beasts what cultivators were to normal humans. In its case it was a saur, a class of lizard daemon feared among the reptilian species.
The highest class of reptilian daemons were the dragons separated into three classes, the drakes, the drakons and the wyrms. Lizard daemons despite not being as highly regarded were similar. They were divided into saurs, crocs and geckos.
The saurs were the land based lizards and spikesaurs was fearsome even among them. They were ideal battle beasts and mounts, able to fill both roles with ease. The spikesaur had superior attack and defensive abilities. It had a long, ridged, massive prehensile tail that that made up about two thirds of its entire body length, a shocking nine and a half metres.
This tail is used as a whip or bludgeon and its dagger-like claws and teeth were fully capable of ripping heavily armoured men to shreds. As for its scales, they were tougher than stone. Not to mention that this was Hoarfrost. The ice attributed variety, possessing all that entailed.
Naturally strong and fast, this particular saur could run more than twice as fast as a normal horse whilst comfortably carrying thirty times its carry weight. Plus, it was a fully trained battle mount of a high ranking military officer. But its true value as a mount came from its sheer endurance, resilience and mobility.
A horse could maybe move at nearly fifty kilometres per hour unburdened at full gallop but it would never be able to maintain this speed for an extended period of time. The spikesaur was different. It could run at max speed for a day or two, heavily burdened, with little strain.
It was also armoured thanks to its scales and its massive, toed feet allowed it move on an incredible variety of terrain. The lizard could move on rocky, marshy, flat, loose, sloped and frozen ground. It was these factors that made saurs in general the preferred mount of Bathar’s elite heavy dragoon battalion — The Saurians.
However even among saurs the Hoarfrost Spikesaur was in a class of its own. Its scales were tougher, it had a crown of savage spikes on its head and a few other parts of its body and could use ice attributed daemonic arts. In addition to this, the particular specimen that had been ridden into the magistrate’s yard was an extremely powerful and beautiful one. There couldn’t be more than three such beasts in the whole city let alone one with an actual master serving in the military.
Seeing it also dispelled any wariness that the members of the household could have had. The daemon as well as its rider of the beast were familiar to them. Even Valerian who had been drawn out by the commotion immediately went back to his courtyard to continue his training, leaving Richard to handle it.
Valerian had long held Jonas Steelborn, lord tier arcanist and second circle array master as arguably the most famous of the relatives he had met. Arguably. The reason for the use of this term was because of the man who had just ridden in on his high class battle mount.
Vorm Steelborn, king tier arcanist and Commander of the Viscount’s forces of DaleGuard’s military. Array masters were very highly reputed and Jonas was recognised as the most gifted one in his generation. However Vorm was an Arcane King.
Arcane King! The very words made the bones of many shudder in admiration and even Valerian was not exempt. Before he had just seen it as a lofty title for a great cultivator but now that he was an arcanist himself he finally understood what it really meant. The tiers in cultivation were not just steps on a ladder. Each implied a certain level of power and comprehension of the mysteries that was beyond his current understanding.
That fact that Vorm had achieved this alone marked him as a gifted talent and the fact that he did so before the age of fifty marked him as a prodigy. Not that Jonas was any less of one. He was an Arcane Lord, a veritable level of power but the only reason he could even be mentioned in the same breath as someone so far above him in strength and status was due to his skill as an array master. The worth of a second circle array master did not lose out to that of an Arcane King.
Richard walked up to the assembled men calling out joyfully, for him at least. “Vorm”.
The armoured knight leapt off his mount replying in turn, “Richard”.
“Is uncle in?” he asked in addition.
Richard had some inkling as to what this visit was about so he nodded and motioned him over. “Come”.
He led his cousin into the manor. Those who observed saw that as they crossed the threshold Vorm’s unique helmet suddenly shimmered and liquefied, running down his neck to become part of his breastplate. It was no trick of the light. His breastplate liquefied next triggering the entire ensemble to do same. The silvery liquid swirled around him once before being sucked into the ring on his right index finger.