Doing his best to ignore the headache, Dominic could see that the Volatians were just as grotesque as the ones he had seen on the Virgo Riverbank.
Many of them had humanlike features, but unlike the relatively unscathed individuals at the Virgo River, these ones were still far too appalling for the comparison to be made.
Their eyes dangled out of the sockets with an eternally blank expression, and their jaws were slack. Behind the hominid Volatians stood a group of stranger individuals—they lacked a human semblance of any kind.
Some of them had legs sticking out where their arms should be, and some were simply piles of moving meat with no discernible shape. Dominic could count about forty of them.
There’s a lot more here than there were at Virgo Riverbank… he thought. The Volatians slowly and haphazardly approached Dominic and Soren.
Soren was the first to take action, using Creation to make himself a sledgehammer, which he swung with all of his might, causing any Volatian that made contact with him to go flying off the canyon’s edge. Dominic, meanwhile, unsheathed his sword to fight his own battle.
He approached the larger, less human Volatians in the back of the group and sliced off what he guessed was his victim’s head.
However, he was wrong as often as he was right.
Occasionally, when he disconnected one part of the creature’s body from the rest of it, the monster simply kept moving, completely undaunted. Some of them had acquired long, insect-like legs, and were much faster than their companions.
Those ones were capable of bounding from rock to rock and they even made use of basic tools.
One of them picked up a rock and threw it at Dominic, but he ducked and the rock passed over him, close enough for him to feel the wind caused by its wake. Dominic continued to fight off the Volatians around him, and he soon found himself engaged in a small swordfight with one of the more agile ones.
He was able to disarm and kill it in just a few seconds, but the few seconds were crucial.
Just after he had killed it, a larger Volatian shoved him off the canyon’s edge and into the dark abyss towards the riverbed miles below. The shock of the hit sent pain through his body, and he nearly felt like passing out, but he managed to resist the urge and stay awake. Nonetheless, he was still falling, and once the distraction of his wounds was gone, he started panicking.
He couldn’t find himself capable of performing magic, simply because he couldn’t focus. “Soren!” he cried desperately, as loud as he could. “Soren! Help!” Evidently, Soren heard him because he responded immediately by using Creation to make a rock slab over the cave’s entrance, sealing Rhozheh in and the Volatians out.
Despite the chaos around him, he climbed down the ledge in search of Dominic. As soon as he could, he used Creation to trap Dominic in a massive sack of feathers, which he allowed to continue falling, but only as the speed constantly decreased.
Once it was slow enough for its direction to reverse without damaging Dominic, he pulled it back up to the ledge where the Volatians were. They were both breathing deeply from the near-death experience, but they ignored exhaustion and prepared to fight off the remaining Volatians, but quickly found that the Volatians had all jumped off the cliff in pursuit of Dominic. Both Dominic and Soren laughed through deep breaths. “That was close,” Soren said. “You could have died there.” “Yeah,” Dominic replied. “Thanks for that; I owe you.” Soren laughed again. “Don’t worry about it.
I’m surprised I was even able to do it,” he said. “I was certain I would run out of magical energy.
As it is now, I’m pretty extinguished.” Dominic smiled. “I had a headache until a few minutes ago, but I think the adrenaline must have purged it from my system,” he said, laughing. Soren smiled back, but his smile was not as bright. “Now we should go after Bucephalus,” he declared. “The first thing we need to do, though, is free Rhozheh from the cave.” “Can’t he just get out himself?” Dominic asked. “I sealed the cave’s entrance so that he wouldn’t get attacked by Volatians while we weren’t looking.” “Right,” Dominic said.
He used Destruction to recreate the entrance to the cave, where he found Rhozheh, struggling to escape from darkness of the cave.
Dominic sent him a mental image explaining what had just happened, which seemed to calm him down somewhat.
Once Dominic decided the beast was calm enough to release, he pulled the ropes off, setting Rhozheh free. Go find Bucephalus and bring him back so Soren and me, Dominic instructed. Rhozheh stared at Dominic for a moment, then flew out of the cave and into the horizon. Dominic sighed. “I don’t know if I’ll get any sleep at all now,” he said. “That was terrifying.
I’m wide awake now, and I don’t think I’ll be falling asleep soon.” “I know what you mean,” Soren replied. “But what it is that you told Rhozheh to do? He takes things literally, if you remember.
If you didn’t tell him to come back to the cave, he might not ever return.
He might just find Bucephalus and not come back.” Dominic panicked for a moment, afraid that he had neglected to mention to Rhozheh that he needed to come back, but he soon remembered what he said. “I think I told him to find Bucephalus and come back to us.” “That’s good.” Soren breathed a sigh of relief. “Actually,” he said after a moment’s pause, “not telling him to come back to the cave could have been very smart.
We could travel if we want to right now, and our Manti will find us.
They’re excellent trackers.
As long as we can’t fall asleep and we want to put distance between ourselves and Tieren, we might as well get started.
Every mile counts.” — Chapter 18 Tieren Volatin was a strange thing.
Tieren, who simply wished to escape the Pure Child’s disconcerting gaze, had disappeared into Volatin, but he had no idea where he was going.
He didn’t even know if he trusted the dark nothingness anymore.
The Pure Child was quiet in comparison to his friend, but at the same time, he was a powerful speaker.
His words struck Tieren hard. Volatin no longer seemed like the only way in which the world could thrive.
Tieren did his best to convince himself that Volatin would make him the happiest, but after his eyes were opened to the evils of Volatin and the virtues of the world that was perfected by Aroen and Mortaren, something was different. The Pure Child, or Dominic, as he was named, was always a villain in the mind of Tieren.
Varen II had referred to Dominic as a villain who wanted nothing more than to kill Tieren and himself, but now, Tieren couldn’t be so sure—it was true, after all, that Dominic wasn’t pursuing and trying to kill him; in all actuality, the reverse was the case.
Tieren was hunting Dominic, while Dominic was fleeing what he had expected to be his own death. Who’s right? The question haunted Tieren’s mind the way that Volatin haunted a landscape.
It was there, it could be dangerous, but for the meantime, it was nothing. Tieren felt guilty relishing in the darkness of Volatin.
Its darkness had always put him at ease, and though it wasn’t hurting him physically as it did to most people, it did provoke Tieren’s thoughts. “I notice that you have returned to Volatin, Tieren.” The voice of Varen II sent a forceful shiver through Tieren’s every limb. “Yes, master,” Tieren replied with the utmost subordination. “The Pure Child is dead, then?” Tieren paused.
What am I to say? He thought.
I promised him that I would only use Volatin once I finished the job. “Well?” Varen II insisted. “Has the Pure Child been slain or not?” The overlord’s voice was growing impatient and hostile.
Tieren began sweating from nervousness. “I have done the honorable thing,” Tieren assured after several moments’ hesitation. “So the Pure Child is dead.” What have I done? Tieren cursed himself.
Now I must tell him that Dominic is alive, and he will know that I have taken honor in this from what I just told him, so he will know that I had the choice to kill him, but I did not… if I lie and say that Dominic has been slain, then my honor is tarnished, and he will soon find out that I have lied… I should have just killed Dominic then, before he had the chance to say anything! “The Pure Child is dead! Tell me!” Varen II demanded. “He lives,” Tieren whimpered after another moment of hesitation. Whatever semblance Varen II had of human eyes glared at Tieren. “You have disobeyed me,” he said. “You live your pathetic life based on ‘honor,’” he spat. “But what is honor if you do not uphold the honor of your superiors? You have broken two honors today, Tieren.” A minute amount of conviction appeared amidst the other emotions of shame and subordination Tieren was feeling. “My honor remains intact,” he said quietly. “It is your honor that is broken.” The words shocked even Tieren.
Does this mean that I believe in the word of Dominic, my adversary, more than I believe in the word of Varen II, the only person I take orders from? Whose definition of honor is correct? Mine, Dominic’s, or Varen II’s? — “I fled to Volatin, but I was confused.
I didn’t know where I wanted to go; I just knew that I didn’t want to be there.
Varen II soon detected that I was in Volatin and he demanded whether I had killed you or not, for he forbade the use of Volatin when killing you.
I had forgotten that in the fray of our fight, and I tried to use it against you, but Varen II hadn’t realized yet.
When he found out that you survived, he told me who I was. “See, Dominic, I have no memory of anything beyond two years ago, but as you can surely see, I am much older than that.
The wrinkles of bodily decay are already forming upon my brow.
Varen II told me that I was once a man of purity who had a loving family and was well respected in the town I lived in.
I had a wife and a son, both of which loved me more than anything else, but Varen II took me away one day, and they didn’t know what had happened to me.
They worried about me for quite some time before I was presumed dead, and they still mourn me today.
They exist, Dominic, but I don’t know who they are… Varen II took my memory away.
I am nothing but a dead man to them, and I haven’t even the slightest idea as to what they might look like.
I happily led a perfect life, but even if they find me, I won’t know them, and things can never be the same.
Varen II destroyed everything about me.
Even my name is gone, and I don’t know what it was… Tieren is the name given to me by Varen II; I will never know my true name.” Tieren’s heartfelt speech brought tears to the eyes of both Tieren and Dominic.
The latter sheathed his sword and sat down beside Tieren, but he didn’t channel magic to the giant’s body of soreness and injures, for his trust in Tieren was not strong, even if his sympathy towards the man was. “Did you see the Volatin on the moon?” Tieren asked in an abrupt change of subject. Dominic nodded in response. “That shouldn’t be there.
The moon is such a beautiful, untouched, mysterious thing, and it should always be like that, but now it has been perverted by Volatin.” Dominic nodded again in agreement. “Volatin has brought the world nothing but sadness! My life has been destroyed by it, and so many other lives have been completely obliterated for no purpose other than the whims of a being that is almost universally despised! Varen II is a madman, and he must be stopped.
He has revoked my power over Volatin, but at the same time, he has opened my eyes to the havoc he has been wreaking.
I am a changed man; now I understand what will become of the world.
Yet, even before Varen II revoked my powers, I didn’t kill you.
I could have, but I didn’t.
And now that I have been exposed to the true nature of Volatin, I want to stop it and take revenge upon Varen II for ruining my life! I want to avenge all of the lost souls that the old Tieren, the Tieren clad in concealing black armor, had a hand in destroying! I want to regain the honor I lost when I was a slave to corruption!” Dominic didn’t even know what to think; he merely kept nodding, prompting Tieren to continue speaking. “I cannot defeat Varen II.
He is powerful beyond measure; I could never compare to him.
The only one in all of Anvalé who can compare to him is you, Dominic.
But you see, you are not yet ready to face him! You only have the potential to do so.
I have lost my memory, but I have retained my skills and my personality, and one of my skills is swordplay.
In fact, I am a master of swordplay.
I can combat even magicians, as you yourself have experienced.
What if we were to combine forces? I could teach you everything I know about dueling, and in exchange, you will slay Varen II and avenge the life I lost.
What would you say to that?” Dominic was open to the idea, but as long as Soren was comatose, he could never warm to Tieren. “You lost your powers over Volatin,” he began, speaking for the first time in a little while, “but can you reverse what you did to Soren? Is that possible?” Tieren hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said, “but I can try.
You say his name is Soren? I believe I can help him, for Varen II failed to remove all of my powers.
I should be dying.
I was exposed to Volatin, but I am alive, and I am not writhing in pain, so I still have resistance to it.
Perhaps you could transfer Soren’s curse onto me? The pain would torment me forever, but it would save Soren, and if you regularly channeled your energy to me, then I should be able to stay strong.” Tieren seemed so optimistic and eager that Dominic could hardly refuse him.
It did seem as though he was a changed man, for his tone and ideas were sincere.
Just so that he could make sure, Dominic sensed him, and found him pure. This discovery made Dominic smile.
Before, Tieren’s nature was completely blocked my Volatin, but now that Volatin was no longer a part of him, his true nature was exposed.
All that he was saying must have been true, and if that was the case, then he truly was a man of honor. “Is it alright if I try to give you the curse that you laid upon Soren right now?” Dominic asked. “Yes,” Tieren replied quickly and decisively. “Very well.
Don’t talk anymore.
I have to focus on this, for the transfer of magic from one thing to another is extremely difficult if you’re not the one giving your magic away.
You’re sure that the Volatin is manifested in a curse?” “Yes,” Tieren replied quietly. “But I thought you didn’t want me to talk?” Dominic ignored Tieren’s question. “How do you know? I thought you couldn’t use magic.” “I can’t, but that spell was related to Volatin.
Varen II made it himself, and because my powers of Volatin were all-encompassing, I could use that one curse.” Dominic grimaced as he thought of the monster Tieren once was.
It was difficult to accept that Tieren had become a changed man, but sensing was never wrong.
He took another moment to clear his mind of doubts, then invoked the spell of Magic Transfer between Soren’s body several yards away and Tieren’s body right beside him. The spell was taxing on Dominic’s magical strength, but it wasn’t powerful enough to completely drain him, for his meditation session left him as strong as possible, even after his mentally challenging conversation with Tieren. It went as planned.
Tieren doubled up in pain from the exposure to the curse, but as he had predicted earlier, it didn’t cause him to pass out; it merely subjected him to the brutal pain caused by being exposed to Volatin. “Please send me energy… Dominic…” he gasped between subtle but meaningful cries of pain. Dominic did as Tieren instructed, but not before a brief moment of consideration.
Do I really want Tieren to be at the maximum of his potential strength? He seems pure and his story seems sincere, but I just don’t trust him yet… Nonetheless, transferred his energy to help Tieren deal with the pain. “Can you not heal my sores?” Tieren asked.
Dominic hadn’t realized it, but he had neglected to remove the sores that Tieren complained of earlier as making him incapable of moving.
The Healing spell had not worked to its fullest extent because Dominic’s mind was filled with doubt, distracting it from the focus it required to smoothly and effectively perform magic spells. “I’m afraid not,” Dominic claimed. “There’s no spell that can heal you completely.
I can only give you energy to deal with the pain and to help your body heal itself on its own.” The statement was a half-lie—Dominic could easily lessen the pain of Tieren’s soreness, but at the same time, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of Tieren having full mobility. — *** Some time later, Dominic dropped onto his bed, placed his pillow under his head, and stared at the ceiling for over an hour without thinking about much at all.
He didn’t want to think about Carmine and he didn’t want to think about magic, so he allowed his mind to become devoid of any thoughts or any emotion at all. At one point, he noticed that his level of magical power had dropped substantially.
Though he had lost his magic for a time only a little while ago, the loss of magical power felt like a weight placed on his back.
Not only did the use of pure magic for corrupt reasons damage him physically, he also felt a disturbance in his mental clarity. Gradually, the ceiling no longer looked like a ceiling; to Dominic, it was nothing more than an irrelevant collection of color and texture that occupied his vision.
It made him feel dizzy and sleepy at the same time; he eventually floated into slumber without noticing. It was not a pleasant sleep.
Dominic’s body rolled sporadically across the bed as he took a series of short, deep breaths.
His face looked pained and sweat emerged all over his body—he was having a nightmare. The nightmare had no story and no characters that lasted for more than a second or two and there was nothing present that might induce fear, but Dominic was frightened all the same. Dominic snapped awake at some point in the very early morning, before the sun had even sent its rays to the horizon.
He gasped for breath and fretfully surveyed the room, but there was nothing to see.
He realized that he had experienced a nightmare, but he couldn’t remember it. How long was I asleep?…
He wondered passively.
He remembered daylight when his body struck the bed, so he must have missed dinner, and maybe even lunch. His stomach made an unpleasant noise signifying that he had not eaten in a while.
Still distanced from complete consciousness, he struggled to remember what his last meal was.
When he realized it was breakfast from the day before, he felt even hungrier.
Nonetheless, he knew that he couldn’t prepare a meal without help, and he knew it was disrespectful to awaken someone from sleep for such a trivial reason. He sighed and let his body fall back on his bed.
The mattress bounced a bit when he collided with it, but that was the last noticeable movement of anything in the room until dawn.
Still, Dominic couldn’t fall asleep.
The day before, he didn’t want to think about what he had done for Carmine, but at that point, he realized that he needed to reverse his actions.
He resolved to tell Soren about what happened and then find Carmine, convince her that he was wrong to create money for it, and then use Destruction to nullify his corrupt creation. The dull gray rays of the early morning sun emerged sooner than Dominic had expected.
He looked out the window and thought to himself about how the rising sun was always beautiful despite his boring color; he wondered if gray could be so pretty anywhere else in nature.
He patiently waited for Soren to emerge from his slumber, which, like the sunrise, took a shorter amount of time than Dominic anticipated. “Are you awake, Dominic?” Soren asked in a timid voice from outside Dominic’s door. “Yes,” Dominic replied. Soren answered by opening the door, making the infuriating, high-pitched creaking noise of many old, rusted doors. “You were asleep hours before dinner last night,” he said. “Is something wrong?” “Yes.
I’ll tell you about it over breakfast.
I’m still kind of tired, so I don’t think I’ll do a good job if I try explaining it right now,” Dominic said. “Alright.
I’ll prepare breakfast on my own.” Dominic smiled. “Thanks.” “I’ll be back when it’s ready.” Soren closed the door and shuffled down the staircase to prepare breakfast. Dominic quietly groaned and fell back onto his bed.
How am I going to explain what happened? he wondered.
Soren will be so angry when he hears that I used corrupt magic… Dominic shuddered.
Even to himself, he didn’t want to admit that he had wandered into the very realm he sought to destroy—the very realm that he, as the Pure Child, was meant to destroy. A creaking door indicated Soren’s presence after a little while. “Breakfast is ready,” he announced. “I’ll be right down,” Dominic replied.
After a few moments, he sat up, jumped out of bed, and walked downstairs and into the kitchen, where Soren was already waiting. “Eggs for breakfast,” Soren said. “Not pancakes?” “You can’t have pancakes all the time, Dominic.
That’s not healthy.
Besides, eggs are good! You like eggs, don’t you?” “They’re alright.” Table settings had been prepared at two seats; Dominic sat down in front of one of them.
Soren placed the egg on his plate, which he gently poked with a fork and started eating.
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