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Paragon of Destruction - Chapter 210

Published at 12th of August 2019 08:26:22 PM

Chapter 210

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The Ninth Valley's capital was large enough that it took them several hours to pass through it, and as they navigated the city's many traffic-filled streets, Arran found himself amazed at the sights .

He had thought he knew what cities were like, but this one was something different altogether . The many stores, inns, and taverns that would form the city center in other places stretched on endlessly here, street after street filled with traffic and commerce .

In just a few hours, they came across dozens of shops that sold magical items, including more than a few whose signs indicated that they sold enchanted armor and weapons .

Arran quickly decided that if he had the chance, he would return to find himself a proper set of armor . Although his body was tough enough to withstand most attacks without so much as a scratch, more protection couldn't hurt — especially if he had to face tougher enemies .

After a moment's thought, he also decided that he would consult Brightblade before going on a spending spree — he still vividly remembered what had happened when he had shown his wealth in Goldhaven, and that was not an experience he wished to repeat .

Yet while the stores drew his attention, what made his eyes go wide with shock were the taverns .

While most of the taverns in the city looked normal, he saw more than a few with serving girls gathered around the entrance, their clothes so scandalously scanty that his face reddened with embarrassment .

Still, he did not pull his eyes away — not until Snowcloud gave him a visibly annoyed glare, at least . After that, he made sure to limit himself to stealthy glances .

But although the sights of the city drew his eyes, what his Sense told him was even more startling .

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A constant hum of Essence pervaded the city, as if thousands of people were constantly using small amounts of magic all around them . None of it was strong, but there was enough of it that the feeling was unmistakable .

At first, Arran believed that this must be the result of mages training elsewhere in the city . But then, when he passed one of the many food stalls that lined the city's streets, he saw that the vendor was using Fire Essence to roast meat .

At once, he stopped in his tracks .

"You're a mage?" he asked the man, though he already knew the answer .

A brief look of confusion crossed the vendor's face, but then, he broke into a smile . "So I am," he said . "And my goat-stuffed flatbread ranks among the best in the city, for only a single copper a piece . "

"I'll take three," Arran said .

When the vendor finished preparing the food, Arran handed him a silver coin . "Keep the change," he said, then hurried back to Brightblade and Snowcloud, who had stopped a short distance ahead when they noticed Arran had veered off course .

"That vendor was a mage," he said as he handed them each a piece of stuffed flatbread . It almost seemed too ridiculous to be true . A mage selling goat-stuffed bread .

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"This is goat?" Brightblade made an ugly face, then handed her piece of flatbread back to Arran . "And yes, there are many initiates who are vendors, farmers, shopkeepers, and even servants . The Ninth Valley has more initiates than it can properly train, and those without enough talent often return to their old lives when they fail to advance . "

Arran frowned . "So they become mages and then just quit?"

"Initiates have little status in the Ninth Valley," Brightblade said . "Only those who join Houses are even allowed into the restricted section of the Valley, and the Houses only accept those with sufficient talent . The others receive little guidance, making it all but impossible for them to progress . "

"Then why even recruit them?" Anger sounded in Snowcloud's voice, as if the very idea appalled her . "Why allow them to become mages if they're not going to be trained? Why create all that potential only to waste it?!"

"A good question," Brightblade said, "and one I have yet to answer . But right now, our focus is on joining the House of Swords . The gate to the restricted section of the Valley is just up ahead . "

Arran glanced at her and saw a slight grin on her face . Whatever she was planning, it wouldn't be long before he found out .

They reached the gate soon after, and found a long line of mages in front of it, waiting to be let in by the guards . While the line moved quickly, there were enough people that it would take them at least half an hour just to get to the gate .

Brightblade took a single look at the line, then said loudly, "Absolutely not . "

Without giving the line a second glance, she walked past it, heading straight toward the gate with Arran and Snowcloud a few paces behind her . This caused more than a few grumbles from the waiting mages, but Brightblade ignored them entirely .

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When they reached the entrance, a handful of guards hurried toward them, a weary-looking man at their head .

The man gave Brightblade an uncertain look before speaking, clearly unsure of her status and wary of offending someone powerful . Yet after a moment, he appeared to decide that she wasn't important . "You'll need to move to the back of the line . "

"I was invited by Grandmaster Solin of the House of Swords," she replied . "And I didn't travel here from the Fourth Valley to stand in line . "

She spoke with a confidence that more befitted her actual status as an Elder than the adept she was supposed to be, but Arran knew this was no carelessness . She had made it clear she intended to draw attention, and it seemed she had already begun .

"The Fourth Valley?" The man's expression suggested both he was uncertain of how to handle the situation, and that he was not at all pleased with that . Yet after a moment, he sighed, then said, "Follow me . "

The man brought them to a guardhouse a short distance from the gate, then guided them inside, where they sat down on some simple wooden chairs .

"Please wait here," he said . "I'll get someone from the House of Swords to accompany you . " He departed in a hurry, though not before leaving three guards to watch them .

Any time they had gained bypassing the line was lost in waiting, but Brightblade didn't seem to mind, and Arran understood that saving time wasn't her real goal .

The guardsman finally returned nearly half an hour later, and when he did, there was another man with him . The second man was middle-aged and dressed in a fine robe, and his sculpted features radiated an air of authority .

"Master Kallias," the guardsman said, "these are the three mages who claim to have business with Grandmaster Solin . "

The middle-aged man nodded pensively as he looked at them, then asked, "And who might the three of you be?"

"I am Adept Brightblade of the Fourth Valley, and these are my students," Brightblade said . She stood up, then continued, "Now, lead us to your House's stronghold . Too much of my time has already been wasted . "

"Adept Brightblade," Master Kallias said, emphasizing the title with some scorn, "I hardly think it befits an adept to address a Master this way . If you have business with Grandmaster Solin, I will be glad to—"

"My business with the Grandmaster isn't yours to know," Brightblade interrupted him . "I imagine he is currently awaiting my arrival quite anxiously . But if you waste any more of my time, I shall take my offer to another House . Understood?"

The Master nearly turned red with rage at her words, but the outburst that Arran expected did not come . Instead, a moment later, he spoke with clenched teeth, "I will escort you to Grandmaster Solin . "

"Then stop delaying," Brightblade responded curtly . Without speaking another word, she headed for the door .

Master Kallias exited after her, his expression murderous, with Arran and Snowcloud following silently behind the man .

As they stepped out of the guardhouse, Arran had a sinking feeling that whatever Brightblade's plan might be, winning friends in the House of Swords wasn't part of it .

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