AOH – Chapter 74

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CHAPTER 74: THE MARCH HAS BEGUN

ARIAL

‘Escort him’ I said as I gesture to them to give Liao Bao a horse. My guards quickly hand him their horse.  Zhang Liao Bao understands that I want him to follow me.

‘Follow me to the castle.’ I ordered

‘Yes, milord’ he say and he mount the horse. He seems to have noticed the tense atmosphere, and find it in his best interest to obey.

This man, Liao Bao is of Eastian descent. Which means he come from Vern. His story have some credibility.

Arianna letters. This never……happen before. Why now? That is the question I’m asking myself. Why now of all times?

What happen here? What happen here? I ask myself countless time, almost beating my head out of frustration, not understanding what is happening right now.

Doubt radiated from me. Is this true? Thousands of questions are in my head right now. IS there something I didn’t take into account?

I have been taking it easy because I believe the Invasion is still two years away.

Arianna is supposed to die two years from now. That is how it supposed to be. That is history. That is the impetus and the fire that spark the war.

Letter from Arianna.

In my timeline, Arianna were assassinated just as she was pregnant which enraged Azrael and started the Great War.

But here is something ….different. Very different. And I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. Good news is: Arianna is alive and well.

Bad news, it seems the Demon King has known about it. Oliver report about the movement of the Dark Lands enters my head again.

What if Azrael believes his betrothed is murdered? Won’t he make the same decision? Won’t he march to Human Continent?

I don’t know much about him but in my timeline he is quite the cruel conqueror. The feeling of Helia grabbing my hips jolts me back to my reality.

Helia rides behind me as she grabbed my waist.  Firebringer galloped hard and fast, the leather rein which I just replace last week is working perfectly.

My hand holds his reins tightly. This is one beast. Every time he rides fast I will gently rub his neck and he would understand I want to slow down.

But right now I want to return to my castle, fast and discuss what this might lead. I shifted my weight to my outside hip and dug my heel into his right side, he picked up the lead in perfect rhythm, tucking his head in and bounding towards the road.

Firebringer speed is like always is terrifying. It is almost like he sensed my unease and speedily he galloped to the castle.

This must be discussed at the castle free from prying eyes. There is too much people, too many eyes and ears in the middle of the street and many know the name of Arianna the famed beauty that lives in the Dark Lands.

After a while we arrived at the castle. I dismount my horse and walk towards the castle. Liao Bao follows me.

We reached a spiral staircase. I walked swiftly, impatient and dazed with this new information, my steps are resolute.

Kyle walks behind me looking at Liao Bao with amazement. He never sees an Eastian before or speaks with them unless he patrols the city port.

Eastian mostly live in Vern and nowhere else. Helia is behind him, striking up conversation with Kyle, exchanging stories, probably.

‘Escort him to my council’ I said to Kyle.

Kyle nodded. And he gestured to Liao Bao to follow him maybe to give him a change of clothes. Helia approached me

‘Helia’ I said

‘Yes, dear.’ I could not help but smile.

‘Rest yourselves and clean yourselves. I have some matters to discuss with that man’ I said pointing at Liao Bao and she must have noticed my expression. Uncertainty. She hold my hand and said

“Is everything alright?”

‘Don’t worry. Everything is fine’ But I knew it isn’t. Something, something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

She rushed to Liao Bao, give her thanks, shake his hands, flash a smile and excuse herself. Like always, she is charming.

Liao Bao instead of following Kyle approached me, he looked annoyed with all this and a little confused.

‘Do you mind telling me what this is all about?’ Liao Bao asked me.

‘Everything will be explained later’ I said. That just increases his annoyance but he obeyed. After all he is in my castle, and here, my word is the law.

I went to the chamber first and see that my council is doing their meeting here. Oliver is there, Massey also can be seen siting dinking some wine.

I first order everyone near the room to clear themselves out and wait for Liao Bao to enter.

Then after no one is there I pushed one of the books in the book shelves in the chamber and the wall near the book shelves rearranged themselves and it opens a secret chamber.

The only people that knows about it is my family, and Kyle and Lisa.

I stepped down the spiral staircase made of white marble and the huge chamber greets me.

The walls are half naked rock, half polished Asteros steel lined with many Disc. My mother it seems is collecting Levitia Disk thanks to some scholars in my mother employ.

There is about 15 disks here.

And every week it increases. Every disk describes something about the First Generation. My mother wanted to donate it to the Church but I insist that we put somewhere else.

Whoever this scholar he must be very knowledgeable, to be able to find all of this.

I approached one of the book shelves down here, where I take one of the candles and light it up in one of the nearest large tables.

Since Liao Bao is not here yet, I took one of the many books in the book shelves.

All of it is written by me in my spare time, some written during the war, some written in time of peace, some written when I was bored, where I record the martial arts that I learned and my attempts to create my own style.

My techniques are like a textbook technique.

It is perfect, many variation but if someone who have master the mastery of changes in movements in external attack they can adapt to my attacks so I’m trying to develop a new technique I created by combining the essence of martial arts I learned.

Then I heard the footsteps approaching. And he comes inside the room dazed.

The air was still and the flame barely flickered. I took another candle and light it up.

It was steady and bright enough to relieve the darkness of the room. The items around the candle cast shadows.

The wick blackened and the wax slowly turned to liquid, running down the side and onto the glass plate.

He looks at me in the darkness of the room and approached the table.

‘Sit’ I said as I gestured him to a chair I have already prepare for his arrival. He still marvel at the room and his eyes glances to the disk and then he sits down.

‘Do you have the letter?’ I said and he became focused again.

‘Yes’ he said.

‘Tell me what happen.’

He nodded. It seems he is preparing for this, as he open hi lips to tell his story of how he came into the possession of the letter.

He then tells me of his journey and discovery of the Princess being held as a prisoner in one of the palace in the Forbidden City.

He told me how the Princess instruct him to give this letter to his fiancé and he has since never open the letter.

He handed to me.

‘Surely, milord will think something wise for this letter.’

I took the letter and I hesitated. This never happens before. Oh God, what is this? This is not the plan.

Oliver said there is some movement around the Blessed Land. Did the time of Invasion changed? Finally I decided.

I open the letter.

From: Your moon, Arianna

To: My sun, Azrael

My love, I have been imprisoned here in Emperor of Vern palace. Please send some negotiator to speak to him in releasing me. But whatever you do, never threaten war. I will not be the cause of a war. I know the burden you held and the sentiments in your court. I will be remembered as a virtuous wife even if I die. But never threaten war with the entire human continent. I know there is some whispering in your ears asking you to wage war, for this is ripe opportunities. I am not blind in the matter of politics in your court. My love, heed me. And whoever sends you this letter is trusted by me. I hope this letter reaches you. I love you, my sun.

And then I put the letter down.

My hand is shaking. Flashbacks of blood and carnage, and buildings on fire, the screams of a mother losing her children, sound of sorrows and despair penetrated my mind with blaring vividness.

Vern! I slam the table with my hand and this seems to jolt Liao Bao to surprise.

“My lord?” he asked.

But I did not answer. I should have gained power earlier. I should have gone there right after I finished the war. I thought I had time.

Like suspected the main culprit is that Emperor. What should I do with this? I give back to Liao Bao his letter.

‘This is….unbelievable’ I muttered under my breath. He just nodded.

‘What should I do, my lord?’

‘Rest here. Refresh yourself’ I said.

‘Enjoy my hospitality Liao Bao and guard that letter with your life. I will think of something by next week.’

‘As you say milord’

I then exit the room and he follows behind where I introduced him to my guard.

‘Tell my Dragonguard to keep watch for Liao Bao safety.’ I said to the commander of the Guard.

I have also informed Liao Bao that under my castle he will be protected by my Dragonguard. Then I went to my room with this new information while all the while my hand is trembling.

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AZRAEL MOURNSTAR

‘This is a desperate venture’ I said to Elkar on horseback. Elkar looks at me, pitifully and just nodded to my words. He has nothing to add, because he can’t.

We have begun marching to the Blessed Land.

The faction has united and has brought out their army. Thousands and thousands of it all wanted to bask in the glory.

Surely, they will not be satisfied just to be the exploratory expedition. They must want to mount the wall and take back the Lost Lands, this I’m sure.

The 8 race also agree but the faeries and the Elves Council prefer to stay out the war with the Orcs acts as our infantry.

‘They threatened civil war Your Grace’ Elkar said like the words could offer consolation to me. I sighed.

‘Try to delay them. At least that I the only thing you could do now Your Grace.’Elkar said, reciting back our plan in the palace. Elkar is right.

I will lead them to the Blessed Land and try to persuade them there.

If we really decided to break out to the Human Continent surely Aetherland will rise up and taken back their title as Defender of the wall, Shield of the Human Continent and the Church will pressure every lord in the Human continent to resist us.

I urge my horse to move forward.

‘What do you think will be our threats if we really engage in a war against the Human Continent?’ I ask Elkar.

‘The Vermont’s’ he said with certainty. I nodded. I heard about them. Their superior army training and discipline.

And surely if they have eyes, when they see our marching the young lord will quickly manned up the high walls.

Even if we attack the walls, how many years will pass before we even can pass? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?

It will take many years and a loss of life so high that even if we manage to break the wall by that time we will be so exhausted we will be easily defeated.

Some of my advisors even try to bribe until they saw the discipline the Watchers of the Wall discipline.

They have gold supplied by their state, their family is proud of their work and well provided. They are also instilled with love towards their city.

And of course they love their city.

His city is well known among the people of the continent. How could they not? Their city is the center of civilization and knowledge.

The greatest city in Human Continent the rumours said. And the Wall? O, the great wall. The greatest obstacle if we go through with war.

The higher ground and an ample supply of arrow even if we employed dragons we might not pass the Bleeding Wall.

Using their supply of arrows how many of the fine people of my Kingdom will die under the rains of arrows and stones?

Nobody brought dragons of course. Sheesh, that flying, fire breathing, ungrateful, proud, arrogant race.

That creature cannot be tamed. I also heard about the city that is Aetherland pride that is also one of the beacons of knowledge in the Human Continent, housing enlightened minds almost rivaled the learned men of the Church.

It is said it is considered a jewel of cities.

With huge population and expanding every day.  And this is the reason why Aetherland itself will rise for that state.

It has street lighting, sewerage and drainage, hospitals, orphanages, public baths, aqueducts, huge water cisterns, libraries and luxury shops like the ‘House of Lights’, illuminated at night, where Asteros silks were sold.

The city was surrounded by many buildings and gave on to a great harbor and port filled with merchants and traders, there was a lighthouse within the port enclosure.

A chain of beacons linked the city to other cities, allowing messages to be sent rapidly to distant parts of the region.

It warns them of threat and sometime even relayed words to announce a feast.

Inside the huge city, there was a cluster of great buildings, castles and churches, stuffed with treasures from all over the world.

There are bronze gates, fountains which flowed with wine, some say and doors of silver and polished bronze.

In the castle of the dragons where foreigners were received, stood jeweled organs and the great throne of the great lord, guarded by two massive dragons of gilded gold.

Then there is their military.

In the reign of the young lord his army has acquired every conceivable military skill.

And they have tested it, even master it during their recent war which give Lord Arial the nickname, the dragon, owing to his prowess and his reputation of never being defeated in a battle.

They had mastered the art of warfare on horseback; they could fight on ground which other armies avoided, especially woodland; they were experts in night-time assaults; they knew how to improvise field fortifications quickly or to construct dykes fortified by stakes, palisades and advanced ditches; above all, they were masters of the surprise attack.

A favourite stratagem was to retreat into stone buildings, houses or churches, turn them into fortresses, and then sortie unexpectedly against an enemy who thought them cornered.

This tactics, Arial used when he was fighting against the noble lords in the early of his exploits when the war began

They were also reported by my spymaster, to be the masters of guerrilla fighting and warfare of a socially subversive kind, always trying to divide their enemies and turn them inwards against themselves.

Whatever more his achievement, this is enough for me to think twice to mount an attack to the human lands.

Aleister is on the rear guard speaking with Gruk Kor leader of the Orcs. I could hear the Orc grunt and grunt while Aleister is laughing hearing what I could only assumes a joke.

Or maybe the Orc is the joke.

I sighed. I need to try to delay this march, this is what I decided.

Then deciding that I march to the Blessed Lands the Holy City, The Land that is revered both for the Dark God and the Light.

It has labyrinth of roads filled with pilgrims from both religion and churches. It was a sea of people all ages and race, as I have once made a pilgrimage with my father when I was young but never for long.

Some, most, are sightseers from all corners of the world. It has many alleyways, and lights everywhere.

The Holy Land is a small island, not bigger than a region.

Their streets were lively and bustling with pilgrims, prayers from the Dome and the churches can be heard in distance.

The streets are also crowded with stalls, covered in bright cloths and vendors selling their stuff.

Some sells perfume from the Barcias tress that only can b grow in the Blessed Land which has a fragrant smell.

Children chased each other on the streets. Slaves also find safety there. And in the evening the sun will beamed down on the Blessed Land and the view is beautiful.

I hope like Levitia the 8 races will make the same decision and turned back. Looking at the path before me, I pray for the first time.

Let us see reason.

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