There were thick chains coiled around the domed roof, falling down to suspend a large dragon head. The head was a deep black, covered in numerous pricks and thorns that was eerie despite the lack of life in the beast. This dragon seemed to have died a long time ago, and unlike ordinary members of its species it had a dozen eyes of varying sizes and a twisted mouth with hundreds of fangs. Richard knew at first look that this was no common beast, instead a demonic dragon from the abyssal planes. Judging from its size and strength, only the primordial dragons he’d heard of in folklore could compare.
Slaying the Abyssal Dragon Daramore was the best achievement of the Sacred Alliance’s founder, Emperor Charles. It also spoke of the unprecedented military success of the human invasion of the abyssal planes. When Emperor Charles was the ruler, he’d gathered a millions-strong army from across dozens of planes to aid him in overturning the abyss. It took a month just to get the main troops into the Abyss, with more than thirty million soldiers participating. The bravest of warriors had laid down their lives to give their emperor and his seven best generals a chance to fight to the core of the Abyss. There they killed the dragon in one strike, bringing its head back to Norland and hanging it at the gates of Faust as a proof of their unrivalled power.
Emperor Charles had died a mere year after his conquest, but Daramore’s head was passed down from generation to generation. It would be the spiritual pillar for humanity: as long as they reigned in the city of legends, the dauntless children of each generation would go forth and explore the depths of the myriad planes to forge their own legacies.
Behind the enormous arch was a road leading upward to the famed capital, a beautiful city lying atop the mountain.
Behind the verdant green of the uneven mountainscape was a city of light gold. The sunlight fell on it rather gently, highlighting the gorgeous decoration of every visible part of the city. The roof, the walls, even the streets themselves all seemed untainted, like it was some sort of wonderland.
Floating islands of varying size were moving across predetermined trajectories in the incomparably clear sapphire sky. There was a certain stillness here, one that gave the bizarre feeling that space and time were frozen in this place.
The seven colours of the rainbow arced across the sky, one from each moon. If it weren’t for the daylight, Richard would have thought that the seven moons of Norland were right there in that arc.
Richard had grown uniquely sensitive to the seven moons after the ceremony to Alucia when he turned ten. He actually felt a faint presence of moonforce when he saw the seven moons on that arc. It was vague, almost unnoticeable, but most definitely real.
Even as Richard was revelling in his new discovery, Mordred pulled him out of his reverie with a loud question, “How is it? Spectacular, right? I was awestruck too, when I first arrived here with your father. I wouldn’t have believed such a place existed in the world if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Right, since you’re a mage it’s best not to look at the Rainbow of the Moons. There were mages in the past who didn’t know about this taboo and stared at the moons for too long. Their bodies ended up lighting on fire, and they ended up burnt to death. There are a handful cases like these every year!”
Richard was shocked upon hearing that. He’d felt the individual power of the seven moons stirring the magic within him just now, but he felt like he wouldn’t be set ablaze like what Mordred had described earlier if he continued to look at the rainbow.
Mordred smiled again before saying, “Follow me, Little Richard! I’ll show you some interesting things that get your adrenaline pumping!”
There was a lot of traffic here, after all this was the main road connecting to the city of legends. Mordred’s unruly behaviour and loud voice attracted a lot of unwanted attention in a short period of time, but nobody actually stopped him. Of course most didn’t bother to hide their annoyance either, glaring daggers at the fellow. It was only after Mordred urged Lava, whom they’d picked back up from the stable, to move forward and away from the masses that these people started their endless venomous discussions, disdain and derision lacing their every word.
Faust was a brilliant and glorious city of legends, and fierce knights who reeked of blood like Mordred seemed relatively out of place indeed. Both he and Richard heard every comment the people made about him, but he only laughed them off and didn’t take the nonsense to heart. He took Richard through the entrance of Faust, straight to a pretty and exquisite field east of the entrance.
Richard shuddered right as they passed through, raising his head in a bodily response to look at the dragon head above him. Right at the moment they passed he felt like one of the dragon’s eyes moved, but nothing out of the blue happened and the head remained stagnant just like it had for the several centuries it had been prior.
Mordred took him all the way to the edge of the field before jumping off Lava and passing it to a youth standing nearby. The horse was extremely intelligent despite its poor temper, and obediently followed the arrangements of its owner as it tailed the youth to a stable specially made for mounts at the side of the field. However, a huge commotion broke out the moment it entered, and all the other mounts retreated to the corners like their lives depended on it. Even a huge armoured polar bear jumped to the side with an agility antithetic to its impressive size, leaving a vacancy in the centre. Lava stepped into that emptied space, staying there quietly and letting out heaving breaths every once in a while that were enough to scare the already-frightened mounts once more.
Richard looked at Lava with overflowing envy. He was a runemaster, and naturally knew that the mount was a critical portion to creating a rune knight. Judging from things, it was likely that Lava contributed a significant amount to Mordred’s strength.
“Richard! Here!” Richard got off his horse as well under Mordred’s urging, walking towards him and looking in the direction he pointed.
This was a magical model of Faust, meticulous down to the finest of details. Even the floating islands and the Rainbow of the Moons were detailed intricately, floating alongside the city itself atop a sizeable magic crystal and moving along the same trajectories as their real counterparts.
Richard saw it clearly this time around. The floating islands were positioned according to certain rules, in a total of seven layers according to the height of their flight. The first layer, the topmost one, had a single island which was the biggest of the bunch. The second had two smaller ones, and the third had three, and so on until the seventh layer which was even lower than Faust’s foundations. Additionally, those islands closer to Faust even within the same layer were bigger and their construction seemed more luxurious and beautiful.
Richard pored over every detail, seeing many family and clan names as well as magic seals of their emblems on the floating islands. On the third island of the seventh layer was the symbol of the Archerons. Given their innate weakness as a ‘family’ the Archerons had diverged into dozens of different emblems over the years, and they were still multiplying in number. However, there were two essential constituents to all Archeron emblems: flames, and devils. Gaton was the only one who had volcanoes and devils.
“Richard, that floating island is your father’s territory. It’s third in the seventh layer, and I think you can see for yourself at this point the higher the trajectory the bigger the island. And islands closer to the centre are bigger as well. Clans that are able to step foot into Faust are all ranked, and the islands represented their rank. There are currently four clans behind us in Faust.”
“What’s the significance behind the rankings?” Richard asked.
“The significance is huge. Firstly, it decides the frequency and amount of time every clan can enter and stay in the Church of the Eternal Dragon every year. In addition there’s a fixed number of clans that can enter Faust. Whenever a new clan successfully enter the city, the clan that ranked last would have to exit Faust and have their place replaced. This is why when a new clan tries to enter Faust, the current clan ranking last will fight to the death. It’s a battle deciding their fate, so even the other clans lend some measure of assistance.
Richard thought of a question, “Won’t the new clan need to quickly prepare themselves for battles with other clans who are also trying to enter Faust? But isn’t the new clan badly injured after successfully entering? How will they be able to hold up through more fights?”
Mordred nodded in agreement, “Yes, that’s why the first ten years after entering Faust is the toughest period.”
Richard frowned and pointed at the island that belonged to the Archerons, “But we’re not last?”
“That’s because we took down two clans when we entered Faust! Your father was impatient, so he cleared out the clan who was originally on the third island and made it his own. This lets us not worry about battles for a while. As for the ones we cleared out, it’s just too bad that they placed their strongest men and elites to block our journey.”
Richard did not know what to feel about Mordred’s words. However, he knew that he still had many things to understand and familiarise himself with.
And at this moment, Mordred let out a sudden and cunning laugh. “Little Richard, make a guess now. Where does our venerable emperor, ‘Bloodthirsty Phillip,’ lives?”
Richard scanned through the place and his eyes landed on the massive palaces located on the highest mountain of Faust, “Here?”
“That’s the Church of the Eternal Dragon.” Mordred shook his head and pointed to the fourth island of the fifth layer. “This, is where the palace of our greatest emperor is!”
“Oh?” Richard was shocked. “That’s just the fifth layer! There are clans stronger than the imperial family in Faust?”
“Of course not! Our mighty emperor wouldn’t be the ruler if there were. Actually, all the islands above the fifth layer are sealed. The first three islands of the fifth layer are also sealed,” Mordred explained.
“But won’t somebody claim them?”
“The islands are sealed, and only a blessing from the Eternal Dragon can lift the seal. One needs to make enough sacrifices to the Eternal Dragon to do that.”
“Sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice? And what kind of blessing does that render? And what’s the point of unsealing an island, just for another habitable place?” Richard realised that there was still so much for him to learn.
“Alright, you’ll know about the use of the church soon. It’s about time for you to see your father, I’ll bring you over. It wouldn’t be nice to make Master wait!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter