Book 8, Chapter 45

One True God

Richard spent the entire afternoon crushing all resistance and occupying the valley. Once the barbarians were all suppressed, he sent out a number of workers and other drones to conduct a thorough exploration.

In the meanwhile, he started inspecting the warriors that had rushed out from the cave. In only minutes, his eyebrows were almost locked together, “They’ve been stained by demonic blood.”

Asiris looked around before speaking, “I sense the aura of the abyss.”

“And fallen deities.” “And death,” the broodmother and Zendrall added.

Given this analysis, Richard was in no rush to enter the cave. He instead spread out his perception and explored the spatial laws in the surroundings, finding a number of abnormalities. The energy of the land here was converging from all around, entering the depths of the valley below.

Unable to find any immediate threats, he shook his head and turned towards the mouth of the cave while his followers formed up behind him, “Let’s go have a look.”

The cave system was surprisingly vast. Not longer after they entered, the party found themselves in a huge natural opening underground that was almost a kilometre wide and nearly a hundred metres tall, spiral stairs carved into the walls that led to a dozen more passages that led this way. On the ground was a huge spell formation with three pools at the centre, dark red fog slowly rising from within. The one in the centre was empty, while those on the left and right had enormous skeletons within.

The lingering aura from the central pool made it clear that it had held the giant that had just walked out. On the left was another set of humanoid remains that stood a hundred metres tall, but behind the dark fog it was clear that it hadn’t recovered to an active level yet. It was the remains on the right side that left Richard catching his breath; a huge beast with six sets of wings and tail that forked into two telltale whips. This was an astral beast!

Confirming that the aura was the same as well, Richard frowned in confusion. This astral beast seemed to be very young, but they were a rare sight even in Norland. Every piece of them could be turned into a spatial enchantment, and the skeletal remains alone would be worth more than eternal servitude from the giant he had just slain. While the other skeleton wasn’t familiar, the energy it exuded showcased its value as well.

Barbarians draped in grey cloaks were bustling all around the three pools, either offering sacrifices or casting spells. When they finally noticed Richard entering the hall, they cried out in shock and dropped their tasks to go confront him.

One barbarian that was withered to almost unrecognisable levels took a few steps forward, “Leave this place, invader! You have stepped into the sacred grounds of our Lord, but you can still be forgiven. Remain here, and the flames of the Lord’s wrath will scorch this earth! His guardian will rip you all apart!”

Richard smiled faintly and pointed at the central pool, “You’re talking about the big guy that just walked out of there? I have some bad news for you, I’ve already ‘ripped him apart.’ Have to say, his heart was nice.”

The old barbarian started trembling as he heard Richard’s words, anger overcoming his rationality as he bellowed and charged forward. However, Zangru, suddenly blinked over and stuck a leg out to trip the man, leaving him crying in pain as he fell to the ground.

The barbarians here in the belly of the mountain had virtually no combat skills at all and were defeated easily. However, all attempts at interrogation failed spectacularly; they wouldn’t say a word no matter how much they were tortured or what they were promised. Eventually, Asiris stepped forward and whispered into Richard’s ears, “I can make them talk, Your Grace, but the process will be rather unpleasant.”

Richard immediately knew what he wanted to do, but after a few moments of hesitation he nodded. Asiris waved for some knights to send the barbarians into a side room, and once he went in bloodcurdling screams rang out from within. Just the sound made it clear that this was a pain of the soul.

It took maybe an hour for the screams to stop, Asiris walking out as calm as ever, “I got everything you need.”

The words of the Dark Priest left everyone feeling extremely uneasy. Tiramisu’s heads started talking amongst each other, while Waterflower knitter her eyebrows and looked away. While many of his followers were stronger than Asiris at this point, few could bring themselves to be crueller. Even worse, Nyra’s practiced ease at these things had conditioned them to a method that wasn’t nearly as painful as a brute-force extraction of memories. She could get everything she wanted out of one individual, but Asiris needed to piece together memories from dozens to get a complete picture. Each one of those was left a mangled mess, an empty shell of a soul with no depth to it.

Ignoring the disgust and contempt, Asiris gathered his thoughts, “Your Grace, these people were in charge of keeping the spell formation active, and they also directed the barbarians in the valley to worship their so-called god. They are similar to priests or shamans, but they also adjusted the gathered energy and distributed it between its various uses. For the past 300 years, they had been focused on the giant; in two more centuries, it would have been resurrected completely.”

“And their purpose?”

“To open a passage for their true god to descend upon this plane, transforming Faelor into a new, stronger world.”

Richard snorted at this explanation. Any higher-level being that entered a lesser plane would first modify the environment of the plane to suit them, even changing the laws to make it more comfortable. This would have drastic consequences on the original inhabitants, perhaps even to the point of global extinction. This was something even apprentice mages in Norland knew, but these barbarians were clearly tricked. Any worship of a foreign god was just suicidal, and those so-called gods were oftentimes just demons and devils.

Be it mankind, the barbarians, or even the local gods, they had all existed for a few thousand years at best. How could they possibly trick or even just use existences that had lived a hundred times as long and dealt with powers they couldn’t even comprehend? Even fair trade with the hells or the abyss was near impossible to achieve.

Giving the cloned brains some orders in advance, Richard flew to a platform protruding out of the cave where he could see the entire spell formation from. Setting up a mobile work desk, he started jotting down the magic arrays that had been used to build it, trying to analyse them and unravel their secrets.

Hundreds of worker drones circled the interior of the mountain, constantly exploring and forming an image of the mountain’s structure in Richard’s mind. A number of secret caves were discovered in quick succession, most sealed shut with spell formations on the inside that resembled the one in the hall.

Within each cave was a grid of steel barrels, each filled with the same translucent yellow liquid that flowed through the veins of the zombified barbarians. Most of these pods had a barbarian body within, some missing limbs, others having wounds that oozed white energy, but when Richard put down his work and went to investigate he found that they were being nourished by the spell formations in the caves. Just like with the three enormous beings, the origin energy of the plane was being injected into them to allow their damaged bodies to heal. Any being that still had their skeleton intact would eventually turn into one of those undead warriors given enough time.

The spell formations themselves were being powered by the same yellow fluid that preserved the bodies, a network of metal pipelines underground allowing the formations to draw the origin energy of the plane. The strange liquid distributed all of its nutrients and energy after a single cycle through a cave before returning deep underground, going off to an unknown place. Even without a close examination, it was clear that this mountain hid far more than it seemed on the surface. Deep underground lay the true secret of the Genesis.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA