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Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 131

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:27:44 PM

Chapter 131

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They walked toward one of the small fires and sat down around it, the young woman taking a seat next to Stoneheart .

"How did you end up in such a state?" Snowcloud asked . "And where are your other recruits?"

Stoneheart let out a pained sigh . "It all began after we left the Valley . Just a few days from the border, that venomous bitch Amaya—" He paused and shot a look at Snowcloud, seemingly worried that he had offended her .

"She deserves the title," Snowcloud said . "Continue . "

"She ambushed us when we had only barely left the Valley," Stoneheart said, his expression somber . "We didn't have a chance . "

Snowcloud raised an eyebrow . "You were defeated by Amaya? For all her cunning, I never figured her for much of a fighter . How did she manage that?"

"She wasn't alone," Stoneheart replied . "There were two other novices with her, both Waning Moon scum, along with their recruits . Against three mages and near a thousand skilled fighters, it was a miracle that any of us managed to escape . "

"You seem to have managed it better than your recruits," Arran said, a hint of bitterness in his voice . He still remembered Stoneheart's ragtag army, and it seemed his misgivings about the destiny of those recruits had come to pass .

"I delayed Amaya and the other two novices as long as I could, to give my recruits a chance to escape . But I failed . " Stoneheart shook his head . "I nearly died, and even so, almost half of them lost their lives in that battle . "

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"Seems like you lost a lot more than that," Arran said, glancing at the disheveled group of men and women in the camp .

When he first met Stoneheart in Hillfort, the giant novice's army had counted thousands of recruits . If these few dozen were all that was left, it meant Stoneheart's army had been wiped out almost completely .

"Amaya was only the start of our problems," Stoneheart replied, his voice grave . "After the battle, we fled west for several weeks, until we finally lost them . But when we thought we were safe…" He let out a sigh, his expression pained . "Things only got worse from there . "

"Amaya attacked again?" Snowcloud asked .

Stoneheart shook his head . "Not Amaya . Some local warlord . Calls himself the Lord of Bones . He's already killed several novices in the region . He commands an army of bandits and mercenaries, thousands of them . "

"You fought him?" Snowcloud asked with a frown . "Even after your encounter with Amaya?"

"We didn't have a choice," Stoneheart said . "He took us by surprise, and we were forced to make a stand . The man himself isn't that strong — I think I could take him, if it was just him against me . But his army… they're Body Refiners, all of them . None too strong, but against so many…"

"Body Refiners? Thousands of them?" Arran's heart almost skipped a beat when he heard this . He knew that there hadn't been time for Lord Sevaril to raise an army of Body Refiners with the food Arran sold to him, but even so, he knew of only one person with the means to hand out the means to raise such an army .

Stoneheart nodded . "More than I thought possible . Most of the recruits I had left fell in that fight before we made our escape . We've avoided their main force since then, but we've encountered several of their raiding parties . And each time we face them, more of us fall . "

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"What about the villagers?" Snowcloud asked . "How did they get tangled up in all this?"

"My scouts found one of the raiding parties headed toward their village," Stoneheart said . "We couldn't fight them without losing even more people, so I took the villagers along . Better that their houses burn without them inside . "

"What are you going to do now?" Snowcloud asked .

"We were planning to travel north," Stoneheart said, though there was some doubt in his voice . "My uncle has taken an old fortress there, and if we reached him, we'd be safe . "

"The Dragon is nearby?" Snowcloud asked, a thoughtful look in her eyes .

"His fortress a few hundred miles north of here," Stoneheart said . "But the warlord's army lies between us, and his raiding parties roam the lands for tens of miles around . You're lucky you haven't run into them yet . "

The answer didn't seem to satisfy Snowcloud, and she gave Stoneheart a cold stare . "Why is the Dragon in the region?"

As she spoke, Arran thought he could hear a hint of danger in her voice . Although he did not know who this 'Dragon' was, Snowcloud was clearly far more concerned about him than the warlord who had killed most of Stoneheart's recruits .

Stoneheart sighed . "I suppose there's no point in hiding the truth," he said after only a moment's hesitation . "The Soaring Sun is gathering its strength in the region, and all our novices are supposed to take their recruits to my uncle's fortress . "

"He's an Elder," Snowcloud said, her voice sharp . "If he gets involved in the novices' conflicts, it could mean open war within the Society . "

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"Open war?" Stoneheart asked bitterly . "What do you think we have now? Waning Moon mages are forming armies to kill those within the Soaring Sun faction, and you think we still have peace?"

Anger was now clear in his tone, and with his eyes fixed on Snowcloud, he continued, "A warlord with an impossible army appeared right on the road to our gathering place, hunting down our novices . You think that's a coincidence?"

At this, Snowcloud's expression turned shocked . "You think the Waning Moon sent him?"

Stoneheart laughed bitterly . "What other explanation is there? I've sent my scouts through the region to look for survivors, and all they found were a scattered few recruits who barely escaped when their novices were ambushed . "

"If you're right, then the Waning Moon has crossed a line," Snowcloud said with a sigh . "But then, if Soaring Sun novices are gathering under the protection of an Elder, so have you . " She shook her head . "I have to speak with the Dragon . "

"You're welcome to join us," Stoneheart said . "Perhaps with your help, we'll actually make it there . If we do, you can speak with the Dragon all you want . "

Snowcloud looked as if she was about to reply, but then, a muffled call sounded through the camp .

"Lord Stoneheart!"

A moment later, a gaunt man in ragged clothes emerged from the treeline, running toward them .

"Lord Stoneheart!" the man called again, before coming to a stop a few paces from their small group, panting with exhaustion . "There's a raiding party!" he said .

"How many?" Stoneheart asked at once . "And how long before they get here?"

"Several hundred," the man replied, his breathing ragged as his legs seemed to give out and he collapsed to his knees . But even as his strength failed him, he managed to add, "A quarter hour . "

"Kara, have someone take care of him," Stoneheart said to the young woman aside him . Then, he turned to Snowcloud, a pleading look in his eyes . "Will you help?"

She only took a moment in answering . "We will," she said . "It doesn't seem like we have much of a choice, anyway . "

A look of relief appeared on Stoneheart's face at her answer . "Thank you," he said . "Now, what we should do is—"

"Shut up," Snowcloud interrupted him . "You've already gotten your recruits killed . You're not in command here . "

For a moment, both she and Stoneheart stared at each other in silence, until finally, Stoneheart cast down his gaze .

Turning away from Stoneheart, Snowcloud looked at Arran .

"Ghostblade, what should we do?"

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