Book 7, Chapter 123

The Land Of The Dragons

The old assassin’s name was Shattler, and he was the great-great-grandfather of Duke Zabal. The man had lived for hundreds of years and was one of the powerhouses from the golden era; however, unlike the three kings of the Iron Triangle, he was cautious and cowardly because he was the weakest of the batch. In the war with the gods, he had fled the battlefield and hidden himself away, only showing himself once the war was over. He had then hidden away and built up the Pearl Necklace with centuries of effort.

What Richard found most interesting came just under a century ago, when Shattler had chanced upon a natural passage to a foreign plane. That was a plane ruled by dragons, the source of the Dragon Church. The portal had been strengthened ever since then, only recently stabilising to the point that it could be travelled at all time.

With a point of entry for their allies, the Pearl Necklace under Zabal finally grew ambitious. Although the rise of the Crimson Dukedom was surprising, the Duke had never faced Richard in battle and didn’t treat him as a threat. Even the idea of splitting the Iron Triangle Empire equally was only a stop-gap; the plan had been to annex everything eventually. Unfortunately, neither Zabal nor Shattler himself had expected someone who wasn’t even a legendary mage to walk into their trap alone and kill all of their soldiers. Richard had even slaughtered Zabal and the legendary assassin himself, going so far as to overestimate the old man.

Saint runemasters were figures standing atop even Norland, and not just for their runecrafting ability. The very conception of saint runes required great power and comprehension of laws; even if he didn’t have a full legendary ability yet, Richard was a threat that the locals of Faelor couldn’t even begin to fathom. Alongside Disintegrator, two divine weapons, and a rune that condensed the essence of the most powerful legend to ever walk Faelor’s earth, he was nigh unstoppable. Realistically, even without the set bonuses of Disintegrator, Lifesbane and Mana Armament alone would make him a frightening foe. In all respects, Richard’s skills and equipment far surpassed that of an upstart.

Shattler had been living in seclusion for half his life; even if he had been training the entire time, such a long period without any serious fights left him rusty. True powerhouses were forged in the blood of the battlefield, not in a luxurious manor atop a mountain.

Richard couldn’t help but sigh; it all came back to the same thing. If one dared to sit on their laurels, they would only be devoured by a greater power. This was true with individuals just as much as it was with entire planes. Hiding was never a permanent solution; one couldn’t put off their problems indefinitely.

He continued flipping through the pages, finding Shattler starting to worry about his own mortality towards the end. He had started looking for a path to immortality, even considering godhood, but Faelor’s closed system left no room for old gods to be killed. With no deities having died in centuries, there was no way for him to gather enough divinity to ascend.

He had ended up with the thought of becoming a lich; although reluctant to sacrifice his body, he had been experimenting constantly and saw no other way out. With some experience with magic owing to his legendary ability, he made some progress and ultimately managed to channel part of his soul into a phylactery. This was why he refused to leave the mountain so long ago; his soul was still injured from the effort.

Ultimately, it was all for nought. Richard had appeared well before the phylactery could be completed, and Shattler was much weaker owing to the attempt. His soul had been shattered by the blue flames, destroying most of his existence.

The last few pages contained plans to split the Iron Triangle Empire with the Dragon Church. At the same time, Shattler had been researching alchemy to create puppet bodies for him to occupy; it would take an enormous amount of resources that he could only obtain by conquering the empire. He was also looking for a necromancer to help him through the process. The female puppets Richard had killed outside were the products of repeated experiments in the crafting of bodies; they were used for his own pleasure, but eventually he planned to use the knowledge to make one for himself.

By the time Richard was done reading the diary, he had a rough understanding of Shattler’s life and found the location of the portal to the dragon plane. He then moved to the laboratory and warehouse in the basement, gathering everything the assassin used to own. Most of it was epic-grade, with only a few mediocre legendary items, but most of Shattler’s wealth had clearly gone into the shortsword. Even Zabal’s weapon was better than what was in this warehouse.

At this revelation, Richard smiled bitterly. Kingsteel and Moonlight were a deadly combo, but the side-effects were obvious; he would never be able to pick up an opponent’s equipment for his own use. Still, Shattler’s stash was good enough for some of his followers, and he could sell the rare ores and materials back in Norland. It took an hour to take stock of everything, but he roughly estimated that it would be worth about 10 million gold in total, equivalent to a top-tier offering. For someone from a secondary plane to accomplish that was impressive.

After searching through the entire courtyard, Richard fixed and changed the arrays protecting the mountain before flying to the peak. Summoning the cloned brain, he oriented himself and started flying north. Less than a hundred kilometres away was a valley unlabelled in any maps of Faelor, hiding the portal to the dragon plane. The winds were freezing, but a smell of sulphur filled the air as his bloodline surged in excitement; it felt like he was back to his days in the Land of Dusk.

With the addition of Kingsteel, Disintegrator was now a grade 4 set that was much more valuable than any single grade 5 rune. The killing of Shattler had lit a fire in Richard, giving him a greater understanding of his own strength. He didn’t even feel like waiting for his followers, his mind screaming that he was wasting time with every passing moment.

The cloned brain flew quickly, reaching the valley recorded in Shattler’s diary within an hour. Richard stopped and hovered over a mountain at the side, looking over the valley under him. It had already grown into a sizeable town with hundreds of people bustling in the streets, the entire valley able to accommodate more than 10,000 in total. No wonder Zabal talked had the confidence to ask for a good chunk of the Empire, the Dragon Church was prepared to invade!

However, there were no magic arrays set up in this valley at all. Richard didn’t even discover any alarms with Insight or the Field of Truth. Were the dragon disciples so confident in this location being secluded, or were they so strong they didn’t care? No matter what the reason was, he didn’t even consider changing his plan as he flew down towards the valley.

As he approached the ground, Richard activated the new ability he had acquired from Shattler. It wasn’t anywhere near perfect yet, but to those below the realm of sainthood he had disappeared from sight entirely. Even saints wouldn’t be able to find him if they weren’t actively looking.

The portal to the dragon plane was already solidified, surrounded by an enormous stone gate that was erected on a circular altar. Colourful lights flickered on the gate, with a few draconian guards standing guard on both sides.

Richard walked past the guards confidently and stepped into the gate. He might have been caught if they were legends or maybe even alert saints, but they were only level 11 or 12 each. Even casting a full grade 9 barrier before entry, they wouldn’t be able to detect the energy change at all.

The passage itself was very stable, and after some flashing lights Richard was in an entirely new world. One could smell sulphur in the air, with both the sky and earth a deep reddish-brown in colour. The few trees he could see nearby were all twisted with thorns over their trunks, barely even alive.

As he stepped out of the gate, Richard squinted his eyes. As the blurred vision from the portal disappeared, the first thing he saw before him was a troop of a hundred fully-armoured draconians formed up in a semi-circle fifty metres away. Powerful flaps stirred up a gale as a thunderous roar rang through the sky, “You’ve made me wait, human.”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: WQ

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA