Empire Of Souls Book 1 Chapter 84
Volume 1 Chapter 84 That Which Is Hidden 1
Across a rugged area of grass and hills was camped a large army which numbered close to twenty thousand. A lone carriage made its way through the organized tents and bustling soldiers who were going about their duties. Despite the dense activity of the camp, there was an air of unease and uncertainty which permeated the camp. A curtain was suddenly pulled from a window of the luxurious carriage and a beautiful young blonde haired lady peered out of the window curiously. Her sparkling bright eyes shown with intelligence and a hint of arrogance.
The young woman closed the curtain and turned to look at a middle aged looking man who was wearing a plain mage's robe. Despite his rank and prestige, he dressed like a common mage with no embellishments. There was nothing that stood out about his appearance if one were to look at him normally. He had a well trimmed beard and a common facial appearance. Only the occasional flash or crackle of lightning which sometimes rippled across his body or occasionally in the pupils of his eyes, would show anything of note about him.
"I am surprised we have so quickly come across one of the expeditionary camps. They should have advanced much further than this. It seems they have suffered some losses by the expressions on the soldier's faces."
The man known as the Lightning Emperor Eneran nodded while grunting. He was busily stroking his beard while considering something.
"It does seem so. I can't imagine what force could have made this army suffer any loss. The savages that live on the Steppes should not be a match for such a well disciplined and elite army. Well, that is unless they summoned the horde, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Only that oversized lizard poses a threat here and my understanding is that the churches are already negotiating with him and his kin. This should have been an easy expedition with mainly cleaning up the region while establishing an initial base of operations. However, this was supposed to be a chance for some of the lower gods to achieve some benefits and of course a chance for the Northern churches to grow a bit. Really this was just about throwing some of the complainers a bone."
Eneran chuckled at his last comment. He had no issues with his ridicule of the deities involved in the current expedition. He was after all a powerful top tier Legendary being who served a powerful greater god and wasn't far off from being rewarded with a Mythical class. If he accomplished his current mission, Mystra had promised him that she would finally raise him up. He had long been on the threshold of becoming a Demigod, but he had no intention of advancing on his own to becoming one. Becoming a Demigod was a path one did alone, without the support of a patron deity. That was a path for those who eventually hoped to defy the gods, becoming one themselves. This was a dangerous path and one which most could not reach the end of.
Instead, it was safer to serve a deity and be given a Mythical class which was equivalent to a Demigod and could eventually even surpass one to gain power equalling the gods. The price of course was servitude. This didn't dissuade most though, because the alternative was too risky.
Eneran was quite excited about the prospect which he believed to already have been won. It was just a matter of time. As for these mid and lower gods or the gods of other pantheons, he could care less about them. Their gods were in competition anyway and who knew if he might one day have to fight in some future war against them in service of Mystra.
Their carriage continued unimpeded as it rode through the camp. A few soldiers of the expedition were riding as their escort since they had already been granted access and were heading towards the central area of the camp where Archbishop Ragnir waited for them. The Archbishop greeted them with open arms, but the two visitors could easily see that the Archbishop hadn't been sleeping well by the bags under his eyes. He could put on a facade all he liked, but he couldn't hide the truth. Ragnir was clearly feeling pressure from somewhere.
"Archbishop Ragnir, it is so good to meet you finally!"
The young woman who was blessed by Tihr and a potential Saintess of the Church of Justice lifted her dainty hand and held it before the Archbishop who took it and lightly kissed it.
"Lady Shelise, it is truly an honor." Said Ragnir tiredly.
"Is it? I feel as if perhaps I am not welcome here." Shelise replied.
"Ah, please forgive the lack of a proper welcome. We have been having some.. trying times."
"Is that so, pray do tell."
Archbishop Ragnir beckoned towards the main tent and said, "Let us speak inside, I have some news to share."
Shelise raised one eyebrow and looked at the Archbishop curiously, "Oh? I hope it is news I wish to hear since I came all this way by your own invitation. Although, I wasn't expecting to run into you so soon. Aren't you quite behind schedule?"
Ragnir sighed and began to lead Shelise and Eneran towards the command tent, "This is why we need to speak privately."
After the three were comfortable within the tent, Ragnir had refreshments brought and attempted to delay with idle talk, but he could see the impatience on Shelise's face and couldn't delay anymore.
With a deep sigh, he finally said, "Your brother is dead."
Shelise didn't respond immediately, it was as if she didn't hear what he had just said. She glared at the Archbishop without saying a word.
"I know this might be hard for you to accept, but his army was wiped out by Orcs several days ago. I am sorry you had to come all this way for nothing." The Archbishop seemed apologetic and in a way he was. His plan had been entirely ruined by this chain of events.
"Impossible, and don't call it my brother." Shelise finally murmured.
Eneran watched carefully from Shelise's side while sipping the tea that had been prepared for him. He gently pulled on his beard with his other hand and seemed to be thinking of something, but he remained silent.
"Every report from the scouts we sent said that his entire camp was wiped out, we were even attacked by the same group of Orcs. This is the reason why morale is so low currently. I am sure you have seen it on your way here."
"I said Impossible. It is not possible for it to be dead. You are mistaken. Did you see it with your own eyes?"
Ragnir coughed and replied back somewhat uncomfortably, "Ah, no I didn't see it with my own eyes, but the reports clearly state his camp was burned to the ground with even the corpses were piled up into huge bonfires."
"Hmph. You are a fool! Do you not think it possible for that to be a lie?"
Although Ragnir was somewhat cautious around this young woman because of her status as a potential Saintess of Tihr, he was becoming angered by her words and attitude. He was an Archbishop deserving of respect and to be talked down to by a young woman was a little too much for his pride to handle. Not to mention he couldn't understand where this young woman was coming from with her insistence that her brother wasn't dead. Her brother wasn't anything special in his eyes and he had no reason to doubt the reports. Although his scouts had been compromised and killed and there was those strange incidents with some of his own men attacking the encampment, he couldn't put those strange incidents together with Aleksandros in his mind.
"I have been respectful to you and welcomed you into my camp. You may be a potential Saintess of Tihr, but that means little to me! How dare you question me in my own camp?" Ragnir angrily retorted while rising abruptly from his seat.
"How about we take a step back and both calm down?"
Eneran, seeing where this was going, spoke to alleviate the situation. He was smiling gently and not giving off any of the pressure a Legendary being would normally give. Shelise looked at Eneran and noticed his gesture and quieted down. Ragnir also calmed down and once again sat.
"Why don't you tell us exactly what happened, please try to share every detail no matter how small." Eneran continued calmly.
Ragnir nodded and began to explain the events of the last several days. He told them everything he knew that had happened while the two listened patiently. Shelise remained quiet throughout the whole explanation and didn't say anything else until she left the tent with Eneran in tow.
"It is still alive, we can be sure of that from what Ragnir said. He doesn't know of what it can do, even we know very little. From what he has said and what we learned from the events in Andor's Edge we can see its hands behind it all. We are on the right track, it is only a matter of time now." Shelise said with certainty.
"Indeed, but the Steppes are vast and finding him now will be difficult. Who knows where he is or even why he has come to this place. What does he seek here? The Steppes have nothing of value as far as I know."
After eyeing Eneran unhappily Shelise asked, "What do you suggest then Eneran?"
"Hmm, there must be some reasoning behind his movements and why bother with the expedition at all? Well, searching without a clear path is foolish. We can have the Night Fury continue to search while we travel along with the expedition. I think this would be wiser. Perhaps traveling with the expedition will bring us into contact with our target. I think this may be the best option for us at this time."
After considering for a time, Shelise sighed and said, "I guess this is the best we can do for now."
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