The Bloodstained Lands(2)
This was a world of red, yellow, and brown. Small rock formations were everywhere, making for a forest of weathered stones. Endless canyons and caves made for complex terrain with numerous hiding spots, an unknown number of dangers hiding in the shadows.
This land was barren, with almost nothing to be seen but rock and sand. There were a few shrubs to be sighted on occasion at the foot of a rock, but there was no river in this vast land that flowed through the year. Numerous small streams did flow during the rains, but they dried up as summer arrived. A handful of oases decorated the land like pearls, becoming centres of power.
There were a few parts of the Bloodstained Lands that were rich in resources, but they were all close to the barbarian ancestral spirit planes in the west. Countless battles there had turned the once-fertile land barren, painting it with blood.
Richard took a deep breath as a gust of wind blew their way, immediately feeling a dry heat rushing up his nose alongside a few grains of coarse sand. Two scorching suns hung up in the sky, their boiling light pouring fire onto the dry land. If one looked into the distance, the red pillars of stone would look like burning torches.
Just the day before, they were struggling with the dark and damp of the forest. And now that they’d left the mountains, they’d entered a completely different world.
Countless villains, gangs, and robbers lived on this land, the hands of the slavers stained with the blood of various races. A majority of the Bloodstained Lands were barren, but the place was also full of opportunities. Most of the specialty products from the barbarian plains could be sold for astronomical prices in civilised society, with compelling alchemic treasures and magic goods to be found.
It was rumoured that there were several mysterious death zones deep into the Bloodstained Lands, places where the fabric of spacetime was distorted. Exotic foreign creatures roamed the land, but there were also ruins with valuable treasures buried within. Even though the distorted spacetime was a powerful opponent, countless adventurers remained attracted by the prospects of those treasures.
It was high noon, and within half an hour of entering the desert Richard was sweating hard. The others looked tired as well, so they had to look for a shady spot under a cliff to rest as they waited for the heat to subside.
Horses became extremely important in the Bloodstained Lands. All of the horses they’d seized from Baron Forza had been sent alongside the vanguard, successfully crossing through the Sequoia Kingdom to reach the Bloodstained Lands. The vanguard had two raptors with them, and through those Richard could keep tabs on the vanguard’s location.
Once they were under the shadow of the peak, the group immediately collapsed to get a drink of water and some rest. Richard went out of the shade, squinting his eyes at the two suns that seemed motionless in the sky. He shook his head helplessly, turning around to shout, “Let’s rest! It seems like we’ll have to wait until the evening to set off!”
Thus, the men all struggled to get up and tidy some flat ground to rest upon. Medium Rare then set up some simple crockery, beginning to cook food for them all. Richard wiped the sweat from his forehead, returning to the shade and opening a map to study.
This map was very simple and lacking, not even outlining the entirety of the Bloodstained Lands. It was hand-drawn by rogues, so even if it did indicate the locations of several well-known oases and camps it could not be considered precise. If they used it as the basis of their movements, they would end up deviating a great distance from their destination.
However, this simple map was a prize obtained from wiping out the Church of Valour. In this plane, maps were priceless.
The Bloodstained Lands were filled with unpredictable dangers. Outside of the oases and a few permanent neutral camps, a large part of the area was completely blank. There were only a few simple terms on the map, some pointing out well-known places and some even just naming locals. The true maps were in the hands of the slavers, who’d been navigating the place for years.
Richard had already marked a path on the corner of the map, filling out details of the terrain around the parts they’d already crossed. Precision allowed him to draw complicated magical formations with ease, so cartography wasn’t too much of a problem.
Olar ran over to Richard’s side, asking, “What are we going to do next, my Lord?”
Richard pointed to a camp symbol on the map, “We’ll start by meeting up with the vanguard. Once we have horses, we can try our luck at Camp Bloodstone. We need to find a guide familiar with this area and look at what we can do.”
Olar was puzzled, “Try our luck?”
Richard smiled, “We’ll be settling down here. Aliens, scum, and the rubbish from everywhere are left here, and they’ll make for natural allies. Here, nobody will care where we come from as long as we have the capabilities.”
“Including barbarians?” the elven bard asked cautiously, although his expression was somewhat unnatural.
Richard cast an odd glance at him, “Of course!”
The unpleasant expression was followed up with a pale face. Richard wondered what the fellow had experienced that had left such great trauma against barbarians.
Having sent Olar away, Richard walked over to Tiramisu and patted him on the back, “I need you to transcribe a few more magic scrolls. I heard that stuff is exorbitant in this plane, so we could potentially make a fortune. It will also help grow your mana pool.
“Speaking of, when do you expect to level up?”
Tiramisu scratched his head, “I’ll be level 10 in about a month.”
Ogres were different from humans, weaker in magic at the same level. A level 10 ogre mage was about the same as a level 8 human.
Richard nodded, “Not bad! I’m really anticipating the day you get to level 12!”
Ogres were likely to experience a mutation at level 12, growing another head or evolving some rare bloodline ability. Even the most common additional head would be great, since the mage would be able to cast spells much faster that way.
After circling around and talking to everyone, Richard found a place to sit down. He took out a piece of hide, continuing to draft an unfinished rune. Some training had left him fully able to draw runes in any environment, be it the special dwarven alchemy tables back in the Deepblue or the small desk back on the Archeron island. Even the flat stone before him now was no matter, not affecting the precision of his formations at all.
This specific rune was Elementary Strength, being drafted for Gangdor. Richard would be able to make for a 30% boost given his current materials, making Gangdor’s strength equivalent to Menta’s. That would also greatly increase his combat capabilities.
Flowsand was sat beside Richard, watching as he drafted the rune. “It’s not easy to lead, is it?” she asked.
The pen didn’t stop, the line remaining flat and neat, “Yes. I need to consider everyone and everything, and understand all your thoughts. I still need everyone in the future, I need to gain their trust instead of relying on the contract that binds them. Besides, even if I want to I don’t have any slave contracts left.”
He continued to complete a curve, stowing his pen away as he said thoughtfully, “But trust seems hard to gain.”
Flowsand smiled slightly, “You have already gained mine.”
He flashed his own in response, “But there’s still the others.”
Flowsand brushed through his long hair, “That is easy. You just need to lead them to victory in a few more battles.”
Richard nodded, “That’s true.”
“But you seem to have forgotten someone,” she reminded him.
“Waterflower?” Richard found it strange at first, but immediately understood. Their souls were connected, allowing him to know the girl’s location and summon her when he wanted, but this did not mean that he knew what she was thinking, whether she was happy or dejected. He’d neglected her for a long time.
“I understand now, thank you!”
Flowsand smiled slightly, “You don’t have to thank me. I still look forward to the day you bring us back to Norland.”
He replied profoundly, “I’m looking forward to the day before.”
Flowsand was stunned for a moment, but then she pulled a long face before leaving with a snort. That look of surprise gave Richard a little sense of accomplishment.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Mel
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA