Commoners had no way to differentiate the attributes of the servants of different gods; even someone like the Direwolf Duke could only roughly guess what camp they belonged to. However, Richard had seen the Book of Gods before, memorising the characteristics of the deities of Faelor. He was only asking here as a formality; he already knew who the other two were.
Faylen gracefully extended her hand to the other two, making the introductions, “This is priest Fermi, in charge of the Church of the Forest Goddess in the Sequoia Kingdom. This is priestess Shaw, serving the Goddess of the Hunt. He is the same.”
After she was done, Richard expressed his gratitude with impeccable manners. He also extended another welcome to the three priests, with a complicated set of pleasantries. This was a necessary thing when dealing with the clergies of Faelor, and only got worse with the weaker deities.
A sense of curiosity beset Richard; three priests had gathered at bluewater, but the purpose of their visit was unknown. They were all only level 10, but they could all manage churches. And these weren’t any churches either; they were the only churches for those goddesses in the Sequoia Kingdom. Neian was only an intermediate god himself, but even a church in a border country was manned by a level 12 priest. Essien’s genius had left even Richard shocked. Kellac had estimated that these three goddesses had trouble even maintaining their current positions. They were the three weakest deities of Faelor’s pantheon.
Whatever be the case, this was the first positive contact between Richard and the deities of Faelor; this meeting was of great significance. Needless to say, the robbery of the Church of Valour and the killing of a priest of Ceres weren’t exactly “interactions.”
Faylen spent some time explaining the purpose of their visit. The clerics of the Goddess of Spring Water and the Goddess of the Forest had realised Io and Flowsand used powers unknown to them so far; these powers didn’t seem to have any strong alignment either. Such powerful priests definitely required the backing of a similarly powerful deity; for a new god to possess such immense power was virtually impossible.
The clerics had immediately reported their findings through their own secret channels. However, what they didn’t know was that Richard had already intercepted the contents of these messages. He had only let them go through because the messages would not disrupt his plans. It wasn’t long after that the three goddesses had sent priests to visit him.
The biggest reason for the three rushing over was the fact that this unknown deity seemed to have a neutral alignment. The three goddesses were the same; it was rare for two neutral deities to have any fundamental conflicts.
And thus, Faylen suggested an alliance. Their churches would support his expansion wholeheartedly, but in return he would have to allow them to preach in his lands. Naturally, they would only send missionaries; his citizens would still be free to choose their faith.
Richard was quite surprised by the proposal. Although it seemed innocent enough to the untrained, he clearly understood what this meant from a theological perspective. His expression turned strange, “Are the three goddesses interested in forming a pantheon for neutral deities?”
Did these goddesses want to try and suppress the Eternal Dragon? Or did they just want an alliance of equal status? Whichever it was, Richard instinctively felt it to be ridiculous.
Norland was not like Faelor. Every deity outside of the Eternal Dragon walked a tough path, constantly eyed by legendary powerhouses who wished to kill them and take their power. This was especially so for those beings who had left Norland long ago to explore the myriad planes. Almost every such powerhouse caused a stir upon their return to Norland. Some wanted a peek into the realm of divinity, others conspired to take their place, and even more tried to turn them into divine artefacts.
Thus, knowledge about the gods was spread far and wide through the entire plane. Places of learning like the Deepblue even had complete guidebooks about the gods. Of course, that was only a path to aspire to; whether one could actually walk it or not was a completely different story. Still, the pantheon of Norland had no secrets. Any mystery was reserved for the Eternal Dragon.
Richard’s question immediately warped Faylen’s face, “Had I not known you were a mage, I would have mistaken you for an avatar of a— Wait, could it be…”
Faylen and her companions stood up, evidently having remembered that divine avatars could still be mages. The fact that Richard could talk so freely about the mysteries of the gods was proof enough that he was unordinary. These were secrets known only to the top brass of their churches, while elsewhere one needed to be level 15 at minimum to even skim through. Even Faylen herself only knew what she did because of her mission.
Their reactions indicated the difference in theological teachings between Faelor and Norland. No wonder Faylen had spoken so candidly, she likely didn’t understand the meaning of what was going on at all. He quickly waved his hands, “Don’t get me wrong, I am only a mage. My teacher is only a mage as well.”
Still bewildered, Faylen slowly sat down and continued, “So what do you say of our earlier proposal?”
Richard thought about it for a moment, “Please wait a minute, I will call my priestess. This is something we need to discuss in her presence.”
The three priests agreed. The reason they had come to Richard first was not for his strength or commandeering; they had mistaken him for a champion of a god. That was a status far beyond a mere priestess.
Flowsand soon arrived at the hall. She had a certain airiness about her, waves of divine power constantly radiating from her body. Faylen and company were filled with admiration; although they could tell that her level wasn’t far off from theirs, her aura was in an entirely different league. She was likely a chosen; the reports from their clerics indicated that her spellcasting was more formidable than that of all three of them combined.
While Faylen and company felt rather uneasy about their earlier suggestion of an equal alliance, Flowsand didn’t seem to mind at all. She didn’t protest the agreement in the slightest, nor did she add any other conditions. This left all three priests very excited.
“Respected Priestess Flowsand,” Faylen asked solemnly, “May I be so bold as to ask how we should address the great deity you worship?”
The name of a true god was of paramount importance. Richard hadn’t given the three priests the name of the Eternal Dragon; it was far too formidable for Faelor’s pantheon. Flowsand nodded herself before casting a glance at Richard, countless messages exchanged through eyes alone. She then leaned against a wall, “I cannot divulge the name of my god. However, there is a dragon seated in front of him who usually acts on his behalf. We just call it the old dragon.”
The priests looked at each other in shock, stunned to silence. If even the god’s name could not be revealed, this was a secret sect. Such gods were normally incomparably powerful or possessed special abilities.
An old dragon? A dragon capable of receiving faith on behalf of a god had to have some level of divinity itself. A divine dragon was only a servant of the actual god they worshipped? How powerful could this deity be? Was this really a new god, so powerful the moment they ascended?
Indeed, an extremely powerful god would explain the might of Flowsand, Io, and the rest.
Having considered everything, Faylen stood up and said respectfully, “Honorable Lady Flowsand, I am very happy to work with the great… err… old dragon, yes. I swear on my faith; from today, the Church of Spring Water will be a close ally of you and Sir Richard!” Given her normal eloquence, Faylen had a hard time saying the words ‘old dragon.’ It was so awkward she had ended up stammering.
Afterwards, Fermi and Shaw expressed the same sentiments. For now, it seemed like the three goddesses had established an alliance with the Eternal Dragon.
The three priests were clearly delighted. After all, their deities were in jeopardy right now and there was no easy way to amass new worshippers. However, the first ten days of the Bloodstained Highway project had made Richard famous. Many people saw him as a future Rislant of the Sequoia Kingdom. It was a great thing to form connections with a figure that could be so important in the future.
Looking at their happy faces, Richard could only sigh in silence. If they knew the truth about the so-called ‘old dragon,’ would they still be so happy?
The Eternal Dragon did not suppress other deities because he had no need to do so. He relied little on the faith of his followers, while his teachings were far looser than with most other deities. However, he ruled over many planes. Allying with him put these three goddesses on the same level as planar invaders. With the strict rules of Faelor, being found out would spell disaster.
Given the power of these goddesses, even if they formed a deep alliance as allies it would be impossible for them to learn much about the Eternal Dragon. Their laws were clearly not on the same level.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA