Volume III : The Divine Emissaries
Chapter 77 – A Peaceful Job[3127 words]
For Maria, becoming a supreme mage was just a matter of time! Looking at her scepter, an idea came unbidden to his mind. Amon couldn’t help but ask, “Are you already in the sixth level, Icho?”
Maria nodded, “Yes, I am. Many hope that I can become a supreme mage as soon as possible so as to suit the title of Adoratrice. I spend much of my time practicing magic. I have to thank you for the Gods’ Tear, Amon! Without it, I wouldn’t have this powerful staff and be making such rapid progress.”
Amon replied automatically, “The scepter’s power is certainly unparalleled. But please allow me to make a suggestion…”
“Please go ahead.”
“The scepter of the Adoratrice is a symbol of preeminent power and authority. As a magic staff, it gives you bountiful strength. But a staff is still a staff. I’ve heard that the greatest mages can perform all the magics they need without the help of any medium. They only depend on themselves. Only while studying or fighting will they use a staff.”
It was a strange scene. A foreign warrior was giving suggestions on magic practice to the Adoratrice of Isis. Any priest would immediately reprimand him for his rudeness. But Maria didn’t blame him for it. She replied with a little surprise, “Your suggestion is sensible. I just wonder how you came to know this?”
“I’ve been to many places these past two years and have met many people. Someone once told me about this. I’m not sure if it’s right or wrong.”
Maria gazed into his eyes, thinking. She suddenly asked, “Amon, do you want to learn magic?”
Amon replied, “As a commoner, I shouldn’t think of such a thing.”
Maria giggled, “In only two years, you became a fifth-level warrior. If you can ascend to a great warrior and pledge loyalty to the Empire, I can grant you a noble title. Then, you can have a second awakening and start learning some auxiliary magics like Gabriel. Perhaps I can personally host the rite for you one day! I checked the records about Duc in the Archive when I first heard about the flood. There’s something special about your hometown. As the one who extracted the Gods’ Tear, you should be able to pass the second awakening.”
Supreme warriors, also known as great warriors, enjoyed much greater social status than warriors in the earlier phases. Their power and rarity automatically conferred them considerable influence in society. Every country would welcome supreme warriors and bestow them with a noble title. It was for this reason that Crazy’Ole had reminded Amon not to reveal his identity as a sorcerer until he became a supreme sorcerer. But now, Maria showed him another way to come clean. He could try to become a supreme warrior and pass the rite of second awakening.
However, Amon was preoccupied by something else. He leaned forward and asked, “What is in the records about Duc? Could you tell me?”
Maria’s eyes gleamed with mischief, “As the Adoratrice of Isis, I cannot disclose confidential information from the records in the Archive. But, I can give you a chance to read it yourself.”
“If you can one day become a supreme warrior who pledges loyalty to Isis, and if you also learn to read hieroglyphs as a nobleman, then I can grant you access to the Archive and tell you where to find the records about Duc. Read them, and you will learn the secret of your hometown. Duc is a truly unusual place!”
Maria was suggesting that Amon should stay with her in the Isis Shrine! He was indeed intrigued by her words. Amon really wanted to give her an affirmative response, but the thought of his unfulfilled promises caused him to hesitate. He asked despondently, “Icho, is this even possible? Becoming a supreme warrior is no simple task! I don’t know if I have the time or capability.”
Maria looked at him mildly. Her glistening eyes were enchantingly comforting. She consoled him, “Amon, your hometown is no longer there. Do you have a place to go? What are your plans?”
Amon looked into her eyes, “I want to find the surviving Ducians, guide them home and rebuild Duc! It has become a marshland, and I’m not sure when the floodwaters will completely recede. I was planning to visit the area in a year, to see if there’s any land we can reclaim.”
“Then I have a suggestion… Join the Isis Shrine and become a guardian of Isis! This is the best way to protect yourself.”
“Vitru and Havon died under mysterious circumstances. If you go alone, there’ll be pursuers once again. They won’t give up. Becoming a warrior of the Shrine will be your strongest counterattack, and it’s the best way to keep yourself safe… If you still wish to return home later on, I can issue a corresponding mission so you can travel there under escort. What do you think, Amon?”
Normally, every word from the Adoratrice was a non-negotiable order. Being summoned by the Adoratrice to become a guardian of the Isis Shrine was a great honor, and no one would dare refuse. But Maria simply asked Amon and left the decision to him. Amon still found it hard to refuse. In fact, he had nowhere to go. He had promised to meet Metatro at Lynk’s tribe in a year, but there was plenty of time. After Vitru and Havon’s death, he would surely be targeted by Lord Urhiya. Travelling alone would be too dangerous. Maria’s offer was indeed the best choice.
Gazing upon her serene face, Amon’s heart was filled with gratitude. He hadn’t expected that she would allow him to call her Icho. He couldn’t help thinking of that night in Duc… They held each other in a tight embrace. His left hand was on her waist and his right hand was on her chest, feeling like searing iron. Her hurried breaths were the most fascinating sound in the world…
He still remembered the tremor of her body, the texture of her thin clothes and the touch of her skin. It was the sweetest temptation he had ever experienced. But it all came to an end when Amon tried to kiss her lips.
Amon suddenly had an urge to come to her, hold her in his embrace and finish that kiss. Then, nothing could stop them from the closest contact. But the urge disappeared in the next instant. Amon wiped it from his mind. His expression only became more solemn.
Gabriel stood still in the corridor, expressionless. Finally, she heard the Adoratrice call by message magic, “You may come in, Gabriel. Call the servants to come in too.”
When everyone was back to the room, Maria gave an order. Amon, he who had extracted the Gods’ Tear under the blessing of Mother Isis, had proven his honesty and loyalty to the goddess. He should be rewarded for his noble deeds and bravery. His hometown had been destroyed by flood, and so Ejypt would be his new home. He was hereby admitted as an Honored Guardian of the Isis Shrine. He would henceforward defend the majesty and mercy of the goddess.
Gabriel added on the side, “Congratulations, Amon! You should praise and thank the goddess and the Adoratrice!”
Amon had just realized that from now on, he would no longer be able to call the girl in front of him “Icho”. Gabriel opened a door for him, while closing another one. He rose from his seat and prostrated himself before Maria. Gabriel continued, “Amon, as a fifth-level warrior and a skilled fighter, you can become one of the warriors under my command.”
Amon answered, “Thank you, but I would prefer a more peaceful job.”
Sitting on the throne with her scepter, the Adoratrice suggested, “You can follow me to Memfis first. There, I will arrange a position for you that suits your desires. This is also part of the reward from the Shrine.”
The priests in the shrine of Cape found that Lord Urhiya had lost weight recently. He always looked worried and couldn’t sleep well. Judah Fayol, who was in charge of the Lord’s daily needs, was also worried. He could vaguely understand why Lord Urhiya was disturbed. Adding to Fayol’s worries, Lord Urhiya would become enraged by every little mistake he made. Rod Drick had already paid several visits to the high priest, asking him if he was not yet acclimated to Cape.
Urhiya himself knew exactly the source of his distress. He had sent Vitru and Havon to chase the foreign hunter quite some time ago. It should have been an easy task. They were skilled, dedicated, prepared with largely sufficient power. Why hadn’t any of them returned? Was it because they had failed? But how could it be possible? At the very least, they should have come back to report their failure! Especially Shuite! His sister’s son! But none of them had appeared after the day they set off. It was like they no longer existed in this world.
It was exactly like the pursuit thirty-two years ago! Urhiya couldn’t help but relate these two incidents. The pursuit of Bair had haunting the elites of the Empire for years, Urhiya included. About half of the top powers of the Empire of Ejypt disappeared soundlessly while chasing Bair. Nobody even dared to investigate what had happened. The Pharaoh forbade everyone from discussing the affair. Now, Urhiya felt that he could understand what the Pharaoh had in mind back then.
Over a month later, news finally arrived. It was even worse than Urhiya had imagined. An emissary from the Isis Shrine of Memfis came to the city of Cape and handed him a letter in private. The letter bore no address or signature… It was actually an exact copy of the letter he had wanted Vitru to deliver to high priest Burke!
A copy of the letter was now sent back to him by the Adoratrice, the last person in the world he wanted the letter to be read by. What could this mean? Urhiya was shocked and appalled.
Where were Vitru and Havon now? Had they been arrested by the Adoratrice? Was it all a trap? Could it be that Amon was sent to Cape by the Adoratrice in the first place? It had to be! And he had stepped into the trap voluntarily…
Urhiya couldn’t help but shudder at the sight of the letter.
It was just the first piece of news. Several days later, he received an oral message from Lord Burke. The message was quite simple, “Don’t contact me privately anymore.”
Urhiya painfully confirmed that Vitru and the letter must have fallen into the grasp of the Adoratrice. Amon was merely bait. It was likely Gabriel who had intercepted and captured Vitru’s team. The rest was simple. Burke must have also received a copy of his letter from the Adoratrice. Thus, the high priest was forced to clearly dissociate himself from Urhiya now. Having been exposed, his plot against the Adoratrice was utterly ruined before it had a chance to be carried out.
Two days later, a formal order from Memfis arrived. The Adoratrice ordered, with the approval from the Pharaoh, that Urhiya become the vice Oracle and the chief priest of the Shrine of Cape.
This was subtly different from what Rod Drick had been expecting. The Adoratrice didn’t make Urhiya the Oracle of the Shrine, which meant Rod Drick was still the Oracle. It was very rare that the chief priest and the Oracle of a shrine were not the same person. He could only imagine it as a strange form of punishment. However, the way it was described was quite funnily the opposite.
In the order, Urhiya was highly praised and portrayed as a devout believer of Mother Isis. It was said that he had always been concerned about the peace and safety of the people in the border sepats. The Adoratrice was moved by his determination and finally fulfilled his wish to be an ordinary priest in the sepat of Cape. From now on, Priest Urhiya would have the chance to devote himself to defending the frontier of the Empire with all his strength, helping Lord Drick to guard the sepat from any potential attacks or invasions.
The last paragraph of the order was even more thought-provoking. Priest Urhiya would always be with the sepat of Cape, unto his very death. The gods were watching. May the glory of Mother Isis and King Horus be with him.
To Urhiya, it was a harsh slap on the face. He felt like his teeth had been knocked out, and he had to swallow them down with his own blood.
The order had clearly been supported by the two other high priests, and it had then been reported to the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh had no reason to reject it. High priest of the Isis Shrine was just a post. There were other qualified supreme mages in the Isis Shrine waiting to be a high priest. In the Pharaoh’s eyes, it made no difference who filled the post.
Rod Drick was overjoyed. The order exceeded his hopes and expectations. Not only would Urhiya be staying permanently in Cape, but he would also be under his command! He reasoned that the Adoratrice must have some evidence of a crime Urhiya had committed. No wonder the supreme mage had lost weight recently…
The Adoratrice’s order was announced publicly in the Shrine of Cape. Rod Drick and Urhiya received the order together. The emissary gave them another message after the announcement. It said that Amon had been rewarded by the Adoratrice and had become an Honored Guardian of the Isis Shrine, which was also an honor to the sepat of Cape.
The Adoratrice and Lord Gabriel had even accidentally discovered that Amon, by coincidence, was the very miner in the town of Duc who had extracted the Gods’ Tear. The Adoratrice wanted to know if Lord Rod Drick still remembered it?
How could Rod Drick not remember it? The Lord of Cape prepared a great gift as a token of congratulation to the new Honored Guardian, and he requested the emissary to deliver it to him.
The message was seemingly intended for Rod Drick, but it shocked Urhiya yet again. Amon was still alive, and the Adoratrice herself had promoted him as an Honored Guardian of the Isis Shrine! He suddenly knew that Vitru and Havon would never come back to him. He found himself wishing they were dead, or the situation could grow even worse. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get any information now.
The Isis Shrine occupied nearly half of the city of Memfis. It was the center of power of Lower Ejypt, the symbol of the divine reign. The Holy Nile River nourished the people of Ejypt. Every year, in the rainy season, the Nile would flood and irrigate the land along its banks, creating a extensive amount of fertile land.
There were two major prosperous regions in the Empire: Upper Ejypt, which was located upstream of the Nile, and Lower Ejypt, which was located downstream at the Nile Delta. Vast stretches of desert separated the two regions. There were only a few, small sepats along the river between them.
In the legends, Horus, the first Pharaoh of the Empire, united all of the sepats in Upper and Lower Ejypt and became the patron of the whole land. The north wind from the Sea blew over the Nile all year long. Just by putting up their sails, ships could easily travel upstream. And by putting down their sails, the ships would drift downstream naturally. It was a perfect system for shipping.
The Horus Shrine was the major shrine in every sepat, but in Lower Ejypt, the Isis Shrine also occupied an important place. In most sepats in Lower Ejypt, a Horus Shrine was at the same time an Isis Shrine. In the sanctuary, the main statue depicted Mother Isis holding Child Horus in her embrace, while in the front hall, the main statue was a majestic and full-length sculpture of Horus.
In the Isis Shrine of Memfis, there was only one statue. It was the one of Mother Isis holding Child Horus in her embrace. Isis’ left hand was gently taking Horus into her embrace, while her right hand was supporting Horus’ back. It was like she was feeding Horus with her breast, or perhaps coaxing him into sleep.
As the most famous statue of Lower Ejypt, it was deeply rooted in the minds of the people. Mother Isis’ gaze was full of mercy and sympathy. To the people of Lower Ejypt, the child in her embrace was not only Horus, but also each and every one of her believers.
Amon was currently working in the Isis Shrine of Memfis. He had wished to have a peaceful job, and the Adoratrice granted him one. He was neither a patrolman nor a bodyguard. He became a watchman of the Archive.
The Archive of Memfis was where all the scriptures, documents, records and daily files were stored. Many scribes and young noblemen came to the courtyards and libraries here to study and work. The watchmen’s duty was to maintain order and peace, which was quite an easy job.
However, the importance of the Archive could not be understated. The Archive kept some of the most precious copies of rare documents and records of the Empire. Many of them were written on papyrus, and so the watchmen had to protect them from thieves and fire. The most valuable documents weren’t directly accessible to ordinary priests, even with permission from higher authorities. The inquirer would have to wait for the watchmen to enter the Archive’s secret vaults and bring out the desired documents.
Some documents could be borrowed, some could only be read in the reading rooms of the Archive. It also depended on the inquirer’s status. Amon found something interesting: the watchmen were all warriors who couldn’t read hieroglyphs. They could still read the labels on the bookshelves, but these were written in the common writings. This allowed them to bring out the correct documents to inquirers, while preventing the watchmen from reading the documents themselves.
This was just one of the strict measures taken by the Shrine to prevent theft and other problems. The watchmen also had the daily-shift, cross-check and post-rotating system. The Archive was comprised of numerous book-storing rooms and reading rooms, organized in a hierarchical way. It covered an area that was almost as large as Duc. Amon found himself living in a peaceful, cloistered new world. His past troubles and memories seemed to have receded like a distant dream.